2019-20 Race to Open

EMSC

Active member
Anyone ready to place bets on the annual North America race to open?

In Colorado at least I know of 4 areas blowing snow for the past several nights. Though only 3 are shooting for public openings. The big kicker is a storm with several inches of snow is forecast for Thursday. The bigger part of things this time of year is that temps at 10K feet could go as low as 0F for a couple overnights from the storm (as well as allow all day snowmaking for a couple days). I would certainly think someone is opening this weekend if not multiple by Sunday.

ABasin - probably ~25% of the way there as of this morning
Loveland - less than 25% as of this morning. Haven't even started on long stretches of their opening trail
Keystone - hard to tell based on web-cams. Have some OK piles in places up top, but they are opening a rather long wandering green to start so could take them longer due to length.
Copper - racing to open up some terrain exclusively for race training (both on Excelerator and eventually the Super B speed venue).

OR, is someone else going to pull the trigger faster or get lucky with snowfall amounts and open first??? Which happens every couple of years.....
 

EMSC

Active member
Just in case anyone was curious how dry it's been so far in Colo... Not even a hint of snow except snowmaking... at least till Thursday.

ptarmiganoct8.jpg


abasincamoct8.jpg


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Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
There is no question that Summit County has an ideal climate for snowmaking, as evidenced by how early it gets started.

But it's somewhat ironic that Loveland and A-Basin and even Copper are among the slowest western areas to reach full operation. During dry years they have still opened in mid-October but are only in the range of 20% open at Christmas.

No one in Colorado has made the investment that several areas in the Alps have to build comprehensive snowmaking coverage. The Christmases of 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2017-18 might have led to consideration of expanded snowmaking coverage. The skier profile of Christmas skiers in Colorado is I suspect not much different from the profile of school holiday skiers in the Alps. The latter seem very happy with the skiing at snowmaking dependent complexes like Saalbach and the Dolomites.
 
Tony Crocker":yr1azod6 said:
But it's somewhat ironic that Loveland and A-Basin and even Copper are among the slowest western areas to reach full operation. During dry years they have still opened in mid-October but are only in the range of 20% open at Christmas.

No one in Colorado has made the investment that several areas in the Alps have to build comprehensive snowmaking coverage. The Christmases of 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2017-18 might have led to consideration of expanded snowmaking coverage. The skier profile of Christmas skiers in Colorado is I suspect not much different from the profile of school holiday skiers in the Alps. The latter seem very happy with the skiing at snowmaking dependent complexes like Saalbach and the Dolomites.

I think there are uninformed people (like I was last year) who plan a ski trip based on resort opening dates. I went to Keystone last Thanksgiving based on the data that they open in early Nov. in most seasons. I had the pass anyway, so I thought why not?

So opening a small amount of terrain early helps them capture revenue from ill-informed recreational skiers. Keystone had plenty of natural snow by Thanksgiving last year but they didn't even bother to open the beginner terrain at the bottom of the mountain. I'm assuming they don't have the manpower/equipment to open a lot of terrain quickly.
 

EMSC

Active member
Tony Crocker":6mvl2qb2 said:
No one in Colorado has made the investment that several areas in the Alps have to build comprehensive snowmaking coverage.

I'd be curious to know the logistics and finances of those areas in the Alps as related to those systems. I don't think it's pipes and pumps that limit Colorado. It's stream flows and water rights that limit Colorado areas (and probably much of the western US). I know Eldora for example spent over $1M just acquiring some additional water rights back a decade ago. And they fully use up all of that water just with the handful of additional trails/acres that they have put in over the past decade. So, for a large resort to purchase and then find a way to logistically store the proper amounts of water for a major snowmaking upgrade would be extremely expensive IMO.

One might look at say, Lake Dillon and think "tons of water right there" but it is owned by the City of Denver which has been growing so fast there is no way that Denver would ever let the resorts use any (in fact Denver is trying to find ways to get MORE water just for the city). Over time that water is pumped through a tunnel back to the front range...

Anyway, I suspect the climate is far more amenable to easy access to water for those Alps resorts.

sierra_cement":6mvl2qb2 said:
Keystone had plenty of natural snow by Thanksgiving last year but they didn't even bother to open the beginner terrain at the bottom of the mountain. I'm assuming they don't have the manpower/equipment to open a lot of terrain quickly.

Not sure if any of the big resorts do. They rely heavily on modest sized Ski Patrol groups to set up signage, ropes, etc... I can't recall any of the big Colorado resorts opening in too fast a manner even in a big snow year. It's always paced as to opening up section by section of the hill.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
EMSC":2gs5syb6 said:
Anyway, I suspect the climate is far more amenable to easy access to water for those Alps resorts.
Absolutely. The data I have from Austria and Switzerland shows that there is more precipitation in summer than winter.

The Northeast gets lots of summer rain too, so that probably helps achieve a higher percentage of terrain with snowmaking coverage.

Percentage of terrain is not the whole story as it's easier to achieve at smaller areas. Big Bear Lake is sufficient to achieve 100% snowmaking but the two areas there total only 438 acres. Similarly, Hunter Mt. is 320 acres and Avila/St. Sauveur is 284 acres.

So Vail's 714 acres of snowmaking and Sun Valley's 645 are actually more than the 100% coverage at the "urban" resorts above. FYI Killington has 600 acres of snowmaking.

As James has oftem mentioned, in the Alps they quote trail mileage rather than acreage. SkiWelt has 176.5 miles of trails and snowmaking coverage on 142.3 of them. Snow Summit says it has 18 miles of trails on 240 acres. Apply that ratio to the similarly intermediate pitched but much larger SkiWelt and you get 1,900 acres of snowmaking.

The Dolomites have snowmaking on 1,100 of their 1,200 km of trails. :shock: 9,000 acres?

EMSC":2gs5syb6 said:
Not sure if any of the big resorts do. They rely heavily on modest sized Ski Patrol groups to set up signage, ropes, etc... I can't recall any of the big Colorado resorts opening in too fast a manner even in a big snow year. It's always paced as to opening up section by section of the hill.
Thankfully Mammoth has somewhat more flexibility. Seasonal employees are generally there from Thanksgiving to third weekend of April. But during the long spring seasons 2,000 acres can be kept open with 5-7 chairs plus the gondola. I've seen similar lifts/terrain open before Thanksgiving in big early seasons.

The high volatility of Sierra snowfall works in its favor in the better early seasons. Mammoth is 40% or more open on Dec. 1 in over half of seasons, a record only Wolf Creek in Colorado can match.
 

Sbooker

New member
I suspect a big reason some Euro areas have such successful snow making operations is their landscape is much more conducive to it. The rolling pasture type hills only need about 6 to 8 inches of cover for skiing. It is rumoured the Dolomites (mentioned by Tony above) only needs 3 consecutive nights of snow making to open 70% of their terrain including all the links to the Sella Ronda circuit.

Despite very little early season natural snowfall as far as averages are concerned it is considered one of the most reliable places to book a skiing holiday anywhere in the world at Christmas if you're desperate for some sliding.

The Rockies are called that for nothing I guess.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Yes pasture type topography makes snowmaking easier, and I'm sure that's helpful in the Northeast of North America. I wouldn't generalize that observation to the Alps though. It's probably more common at those low elevation places in Austria where snowmaking is most needed. As you go higher (the Arlberg, Ischgl) the topography tends to get more rugged as evidenced by the ski damage I sustained at those places in low tide powder. In Switzerland the entire Stockhorn/Hohtalli sector of Zermatt is a huge boulder field that often takes well into February for adequate coverage despite decent snowfall and superb preservation, probably as tough to cover as Kachina Peak at Taos.

In the US West there are areas that "summer groom," removing any large rocks from runs so that they can open with the oft-reported 18-inch base in early season. I know this is done in Big Bear, Sun Valley and Aspen Mt. and I'll bet it's quite common in the Northeast.

The Dolomites have dramatic mountain scenery but much of the ski elevation terrain is fairly mellow. It wouldn't surprise me if there was "summer grooming", and I'm sure that it's lush and green in the summer like other resorts in the Alps.

sbooker":2oakg2d4 said:
The Rockies are called that for nothing I guess.
If by the term Rockies you mean Colorado, they are quite modest in "ruggedness" by world or even North American standards.
http://www.peaklist.org/spire/rug/rugged-ranges.html
Overall the Alps are much more rugged than any mountain ranges in the US lower 48.
 

EMSC

Active member
Tony Crocker":2ovdsecl said:
Apply that ratio to the similarly intermediate pitched but much larger SkiWelt and you get 1,900 acres of snowmaking.

The Dolomites have snowmaking on 1,100 of their 1,200 km of trails. 9,000 acres?

Hard to apply a ratio from a single ski area in the US, but it is still somewhat illustrative. Of course there are no ski areas in all of North America with 9,000 acres to start with, so there is that.... lol

AND, first to announce at least, is Keystone opening Sat Oct 12th. Abasin stopped making snow and is grooming out the hill, but no announcement for them as yet. Which more than probably means that they either need one more night of snowmaking or that they will open with a narrower/thinner than usual trail in order to keep up with the Joneses....

Loveland is a long way from opening, probably ~50% done on their opening day trail. The entire lower half of the trail hasn't even started getting snowmaking yet (but upper half seems close, if not done). Also no where near ready at the Valley for race lane rentals yet either.

Copper has a ways to go yet too - at least at the bottom and top connections to Excelerator are pretty much a miss as yet. So Race teams probably won't start training till next weekend.

In other news, even Eldora kicked the snow guns on in this cold spell... despite an opening day listed as way out there on Nov 15th!
 

EMSC

Active member
Considering they announced less than 2 hours before opening, in the middle of the day for 3:30p opening.... An OK sized crowd just at the 3:30p time frame...

abasincamoct11.jpg
 

EMSC

Active member
Lots of snow in the Colo mtns (well ~12-18" plus in recent days), and couple more storms on the way over the next week...

Loveland has pre-announced Friday Oct 25 opening and I expect Copper will be roughly the same timing for racers only (Nov 8th opening for the public). Copper looks to be finishing up snowmaking up top by the lift terminals for Super B and Excelerator and has a good start already on snowmaking for the lower portions of the speed training lane down to the Super B.

The only hope is that the season maintains momentum and not get sudden warm ups and dry spells - especially with the new snow on the ground we don't want to develop a bad layer with Avalanche implications for the entire season.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
EMSC":12kw8ror said:
The only hope is that the season maintains momentum and not get sudden warm ups and dry spells - especially with the new snow on the ground we don't want to develop a bad layer with Avalanche implications for the entire season.
By my observation that scenario is more the rule than the exception in Colorado. What really important is that snowfall continues at a high enough rate to build some natural base and not leave everyone at 15-20% open on mostly WRODs at Thanksgiving. The top quarter of seasons in Front Range Colorado have at least twice that much open at Thanksgiving.
 

EMSC

Active member
Annnddd.... Eldora announces they will open Friday Nov 1st. https://www.eldora.com/culture/blog-and-news/blogs-and-news?page=3981

Clearly done snowmaking on Hornblower/International; Looks like they are making snow on LaBelle; webcam shows them making snow on Chute race trail, and certainly they are making it on some lower mtn and terrain park areas too. Combined with forecast very cold temps between now and next Friday they may even be able to open more trails in time for the first day of the season.

Tony Crocker":e2r7hug5 said:
By my observation that scenario is more the rule than the exception in Colorado.
Unfortunately yes, Thus my cross-my-fingers wish for continued snowfalls. Wosrt case is dry conditions for a period of time to either melt/refreeze or dry out to sugar snow. Either of which gives you super unstable snow at the very bottom of the snowpack.
 

tseeb

Active member
Mt Rose on the NV side of Tahoe with an 8260' base is supposed to open one beginner lift tomorrow 10/25. $20 for one beginner run that splits into two runs for the last third. They must have made a lot of snow earlier as it has not been much below freezing this week and Truckee, less than 10 miles away at 6,000' is supposed to be 74 on Friday.

It is supposed to cool off after Saturday. I have to take my Mom to rental near Auburn, CA (not much over 90 miles away from Rose) on Saturday, but I will miss this. It was about 90 at my house today, but with short days at least the house does not heat up like June-Sept.
 

EMSC

Active member
tseeb":1poxsmng said:
Mt Rose on the NV side of Tahoe with an 8260' base is supposed to open one beginner lift tomorrow 10/25. $20 for one beginner run that splits into two runs for the last third. They must have made a lot of snow earlier as it has not been much below freezing this week and Truckee, less than 10 miles away at 6,000' is supposed to be 74 on Friday.

Well it is also true that Tahoe has always been kind of banana belt skiing to some degree (temperatures wise).


As expected in Colorado, Copper opened today for racers only. Looks like up/down load on Super B with just Copperopolis open on Excelerator for today. Lots of snowmaking going on at Copper though. I'd expect to see a reasonable number of additional trails open up in Colo over the next week with both snow and very cold temps expected sun-thurs (at least).
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
The huge Diablo wind event predicted over most of northern and central California this weekend may be a positive for snowmaking.

The heat associated with Diablo/Santa Ana conditions is enhanced by airflow from higher to lower elevations. Temperatures at altitude, especially at night, can be quite cool and humidity is negligible. This is an ideal snowmaking scenario. Snow Summit has had signs on its lift towers for quite awhile touting the quality of its skiing during Santa Anas "when it's beach weather in the cities."

Mammoth early season snowmaking is quite reliable in terms of weather (high altitude/low humidity). The microclimate ~50 miles north of Mammoth is almost continental. Occasionally you will see Bridgeport or Bodie State Park listed as the coldest spot in the lower 48. I have seen that at least twice this month. As in most of the US West, the limiting factor on Mammoth snowmaking is water supply. The wells Mammoth uses for snowmaking water were significantly impacted by the end of the 2012-2015 drought but are presumably replenished by now.
 

TRam

New member
Snowing here in Northern Utah this sunday am. Looks like 2-3 inch today and 5-10 forceast Tuesday with super cold temps. Me thinks Brigthon or Soli will be open next weekend. after last weeks 15+" storm they Should have 20-24" base up there of natural snow by then and really cold air for snowmaking!!
Lets GO
 
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