Snow guns come to life at Steamboat Ski Area |

Snow guns come to life at Steamboat Ski Area

Snowmaking efforts were in full swing at the midway station of the Christie Peak Express chairlift at Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday morning as temperatures dipped into the teens.

— Steamboat Ski Area didn't receive the amount of natural snow that high-elevation ski areas like Loveland and Arapahoe Basin enjoyed Tuesday and Wednesday, but it launched snowmaking in a big way Thursday morning as temperatures dropped into the teens.

Snowmaking crews turned on 67 of Steamboat's 100-gun fleet on lower trails like Stampede, Lil' Rodeo, Short Cut, Vogue, Sitz and Jess' Cut Off. The guns made snow until 11:30 a.m.

Steamboat has invested in more efficient snow guns and a digital operating system that has resulted in energy savings, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said. The resort has seen a 40 percent improvement in the ratio of gallons of water to kilowatt usage.

"The early season snow product will be significantly improved this winter due to ongoing snowmaking improvements, technological advancement and additional hardware," Allen said in a news release.

"With this technology, crews take advantage of shorter cold weather windows, cover more of the trail and treat guests to a drastically better early season skiing and riding product in the process."

Steamboat's snowmaking system, which includes a network of more than 600 hydrants and four pump houses across the mountain, covers nearly 360 acres of top-to-bottom terrain (3,668 vertical feet).

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Steamboat received 5 inches of natural snow at mid-mountain overnight Tuesday. Loveland, with its base at 10,800 feet and its summit at 13,010 feet, claimed the glory this week with 22 inches of snow in 48 hours. Steamboat's robust snowmaking system may trump the natural stuff while Colorado's ski country waits for La Niña to show up.

Steamboat Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman said long-range forecasts of another La Niña winter, which tends to favor the northern Rockies, bodes well for the winter ahead.

"It's always exciting when snow covers the mountain and we crank up our snow guns for the first time," Perlman said in the Ski Corp. release.

Snowmaking also is under way at Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat, where ski area foreman Jeff Nelson said his crews were in a training session Thursday. They are integrating four new snow guns, giving them a more consistent fleet than ever, with six identical carriage guns and two tower guns.

"We were expecting single digits overnight, but it didn't happen," Nelson said. "The coldest it got right before dawn was between 16 and 17 degrees. The sun goes down at about 3 p.m. at Howelsen Hill this time of year, so we're hoping we can hang on to some of that white gold."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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To view more photos taken by Larry Pierce of snowmaking efforts at Steamboat Ski Area, click here.

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