MAKING SNOW: With opening day next week, Winter Park Resort focuses on snowmaking |

MAKING SNOW: With opening day next week, Winter Park Resort focuses on snowmaking

A snowmaker from Winter Park Resort works with one of the resort's snow guns early Tuesday morning in preperation for opening day next week.
Carl Frey / Winter Park Resort |

Opening day at Winter Park Resort is next week and the mountain keepers are currently in full-press mode with snow guns blazing each night as they race to produce as much man-made powder as they can before skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes.

Snowmaking operations at Winter Park Resort began Oct. 18 and, according to resort spokesperson, Steve Hurlbert, have been running pretty consistently since then.

The resort’s snowmakers are currently focusing their attention on the areas the resort plans to open next Wednesday, for opening day, which are primarily beginner green runs.

Hurlbert highlighted the resort base area, Discovery Park, Village Way and a few others as the current focus.

“They will try to get over to Larry Sale, too,” Hurlbert said, adding that those interested in getting out opening day should check with the resort on Tuesday to get an exact list of what will be ready for opening day.

As the resort’s snowmakers focus their attention on opening day, their efforts will be either aided or hampered by the late fall climate of Grand County. Snowfall on Tuesday gave the resort quite a leg up.

“A lot depends on Mother Nature,” Hulbert said and referred to the start of the 2016-2017 ski season when opening day was pushed back by one week due to an unseasonably warm November.

How snowmaking works

The resort operates dozens of snowmaking machines, which are colloquially referred to as snow guns. The machines typically come in two different sizes: the smaller machines are called “snow guns,” while the larger machines are snow blowers, which can spread snow out over a wider area.

According to Hurlbert, the resort made a significant investment in snowmaking infrastructure this year, replacing 3,600 feet of underground pipe used to haul water to snowmaking sites throughout the resort, and adding 16 new pedestal stands for snow guns.

To operate the snow guns, the resort pumps water from a mid-mountain reservoir to the resort’s pump house, located near Snoasis. From there the water is pumped to the individual snowmaking stations, where the snow guns are located. The Resort can also attach hoses to the underground pipes that run from the pump house to snowmaking stations, which give the snow guns a bit of additional distance.

Hurlbert noted placement of the guns has some flexibility but added the guns cannot be moved to any location on the mountain for snow making operations. Only those areas with existing infrastructure can accommodate operational machines. Snowmaking operations aside though the resort has received 15 inches of snowfall since the start of October, according to the official Mountain Patrol tally.

If snowfall continues apace the resort hopes to meet their three primary early season goals: opening the resort, opening runs from the top to the bottom, and opening the Mary Jane territory. Winter Park typically shoots for an early December opening day for the Jane territory, which opened on Dec. 11 last year.

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