2019-20 Race to Open

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2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:04 am

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.....
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Tue Oct 08, 2019 9:16 am

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
Loveland - still a gap up high, plus not a drop of snowmaking has even started on the lower half of their opening day trail...


abasincamoct8.jpg
ABasin - quite a ways to go, but probably at least 25% done (volume wise)


copperoct8.jpg
Copper - big gaps to the lifts yet to even start on, but note the big pile of B-Net already stashed at the top of Excelerator.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:43 pm

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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby sierra_cement » Tue Oct 08, 2019 5:57 pm

Tony Crocker wrote: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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:24 am

Tony Crocker wrote: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 wrote: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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:35 pm

EMSC wrote: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 wrote: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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby Sbooker » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:52 pm

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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:35 pm

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 wrote: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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:11 pm

Tony Crocker wrote: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!
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby tseeb » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:18 pm

Unless A-Basin moves up their planned opening, it looks like Keystone will be first.
See https://unofficialnetworks.com/2019/10/ ... ober-12th/
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:48 pm

tseeb wrote:Unless A-Basin moves up their planned opening, it looks like Keystone will be first.


Don't speak too fast - http://arapahoebasin.blogspot.com/2019/10/we-are-opening-today.html

Abasin opening today at 3:30P till 5:30P
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:32 pm

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
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:21 pm

I was busy yesterday, only checked OpenSnow and Joel had not one word about any openings.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby EMSC » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:10 am

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.
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Re: 2019-20 Race to Open

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Oct 23, 2019 1:30 pm

EMSC wrote: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.
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