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Slopes ready for snow
With maintenance done and snowmakers ready, resorts watch the skies and thermometers.
By Miller N. Resor, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: November 7, 2012
Casper chairlift was loaded with three 55-gallon drums of water per chair Tuesday and inspected by insurance agents and U.S. Forest Service officials as it was put through a series of operational trials.
The new lift’s ability to slow down, stop suddenly and start back up again was put to the test.
Early reports have the lift passing with flying colors.
Around Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, meanwhile, the snowmaking crew was watching thermometers, waiting for temperatures to drop below freezing.
Opening day will be Nov. 24, the resort’s earliest ever. A new quad chair will debut, along with several modified runs that received significant landscaping over the summer.
Now all the resort needs is cold weather and snow.
“We have to be below freezing,” Tim Mason, vice president of operations, said. “Twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit is a good starting point. We blow the best snow when it is clear and cold and temperatures are around 5 degrees Fahrenheit.”
During the storm that dropped the first snow of the season in the valley, the resort laid a foundation down the Werner and Moran runs on Apres Vouz that will allow skiers and snowboarders access to this side of the mountain.
Mason is confident the resort will have snow for opening day.
He has been watching the weather, and it looks like Mother Nature will deliver this weekend, with snow and temperatures in the low 20s predicted.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort can blow up to 4,000 gallons of water per minute when it is operating at full capacity. Mason said temperature inversions make blowing snow tricky, but the resort’s snowmakers monitor temperatures all over the mountain to take advantage of low temperatures.
“We try and get guns up and down the mountains so we can take advantage where the temperatures are cold,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go around the clock as temperatures start dropping.”
Across the valley at Snow King, four snow machines wait on the lower part of the mountain. The mountain has a total of nine snowmaking machines and the capacity to blow 700 gallons of water per minute.
The Town Hill was budgeted to begin making snow last Thursday, but high temperatures delayed plans said mountain manager Adam Shankland.
Snow King, however, is in less of a rush than other area mountains. Its opening day isn’t until Dec. 10.
Recent developments at Snow King include the hiring of Scott McGee as the new director of the ski school. McGee is certified in teaching skiers and instructors by the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
“He’s going to bring a whole lot of real-world experience to the mountain,” Shankland said. “He brings PSIA experience and new energy to the Snow King Ski School. We are excited to have him on the crew.”
Also, Tuesdays through Saturdays this season, Snow King will be open until 7 p.m., a half hour later than last year.
In addition, a new zip line may be running from the gelande jump to the bottom of the Cougar lift as early as Christmas. The Soaring Eagle has the capacity to carry two people up to the top of the mountain before sending them back down.
Discounts for groups or five of more are still available for season passes.
On the other side of Teton Pass, Grand Targhee Resort received 39 inches of snow in the last storm. Although the snow has consolidated since then, Marketing and Sales Director Ken Rider is confident Mother Nature will deliver in time for the resort’s Nov. 23 opening. But he said he was burning skis and doing snow dances just in case.