Steamboat snowmakers set to work around the clock in shifts
December 4, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In the early morning hours Monday, Steamboat Ski Area employed a record 146 snowmaking guns and ran 3.1 million gallons of water through them to take advantage of ideal snowmaking conditions. And all of that manmade snow mixed with a blast of natural powder.
November was mild and relatively dry in the Yampa Valley, but Steamboat Ski Area reported 10 inches of fresh powder at mid-mountain Monday, after an overdue storm glided into the valley on the heels of a brisk wind the night before. Skiers and riders who were paying close attention grabbed some untracked powder Monday morning on the north side of Heavenly Daze.
Now, it's time for the resort's snowmaking crew to get down to business.
New Steamboat Vice President of Mountain Operations David Hunter said the week ahead promises to offer the kind of weather that allows his snowmaking crews to work around the clock for 48 hours and really begin to make some dramatic progress. Snowmakers at Steamboat, with 12 to 15 people per shift, will work 12-hour shifts around the clock for the next few days, weather permitting.
"Having spent a career in this industry both inside and outside, I love 6 inches of new snow because it's great for business," Hunter said. “But I need cold temperatures all the time, and low humidity is what we want right now. I operate under the philosophy of control what you can. When it's cold, we can pound out a lot of acreage really quickly."
Hunter said the short-term forecast for frigid overnight temperatures will allow his crew to adjust the mix of air and water going into the snowmaking guns – less air, more water – for the most efficient snowmaking.
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The National Weather Service was forecasting overnight lows in the single digits Tuesday and Wednesday, with the temperature barely rising to 11 degrees overnight Wednesday into Thursday.
Lower mountain still a priority
Hunter said the plan for Monday and into Tuesday morning called for snowmaking crews to focus on finishing coverage on the second side of Heavenly Daze — the long ski trail beneath the Steamboat gondola. Next, they will focus on lower mountain trials like Ego and Bashor, with the latter offering a second path to the base area in addition to Sitz and Vogue.
"We have to get people through the funnel," at the base of the ski area, Hunter explained.
Only then, Hunter said, will snowmaking crews shift their focus up the mountain to ski trails like Rudi's Run and Buddy's Run, which can afford Steamboat skiers and riders a top-to-bottom experience.
Hunter replaced Doug Allen, who retired at the end of the 2016-17 ski season.
Hunter comes to Steamboat from Eldora Mountain Resort where he was initially the snowmaking manager before becoming director of sales and ultimately operations manager. Most recently, he was director of North American sales for the Prinoth snowcat manufacturer.