Snowmakers wait for colder weather

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Powderhounds here spent last evening howling at the latest Warren Miller movie playing at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. But 2,000 miles away, in Sugarloaf, Maine, at another American Skiing Company res--ort, people were trying to cope with 40 inches of real snow.

Sugarloaf, in north central Maine, received so much snow Wednesday that falling trees knocked out all of the telephone extensions at the ski area's administrative offices.

"A lot of the trees still have leaves on them," the Sugarloaf switchboard operator said. "It was heavy snow, and the weight of it uprooted some of the trees," knocking out phone lines. "This is a lot of snow for this time of year."

Back in Steamboat, snowmaking crews were hoping to fire up the snow guns for the first time this season.

Steamboat spokesman Mike Lane said snowmaking crews had an orientation session Oct. 19, but they didn't crank out any white stuff. They are poised and ready if the weather system moving into Northwest Colorado this weekend is cold enough to allow snowmaking.

Steamboat snowmaking crews saw their first action of 2004 on Oct. 23. The year before that, it was Oct. 24. Steamboat got off to a faster start in October 2002, when the guns began blowing snow Oct. 12.

Snow conditions can change abruptly this time of year. By the end of October 2002, there was 11 inches of natural snow at mid-mountain. Steamboat received 20 inches of snow on Nov. 15, 2002, and several days later, resort officials announced the ski area would open five days ahead of schedule on Nov. 22.

The National Weather Ser--vice in Grand Junction said a mix of rain and snow was likely to fall Saturday, but the forecast low Saturday night was 37 degrees. A chance of rain and snow should remain in effect for Sunday, with the disturbance giving way to partly cloudy skies and temperatures dipping to 25 degrees overnight Sunday. Snowmakers would ideally like to see low temperatures in the teens before they begin.

Steamboat is scheduled to----

open Nov. 23 this year. Sugarloaf is scheduled to open Nov. 18, but the ski area's Web page featured shots of local skiers plowing through the wet snow this week.

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