Artificial snowmaking is underway in the oldest ski area in continuous operation in North America.
Crews from Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs fired snow cannons on Tuesday morning, Oct. 18, ahead of next week’s weather, which could be ideal to start letting the artificial flakes fly.
“We’re just trying to cross our T’s and point our I’s, and make sure the system is ready to go,” said Robbie Shine, ski area supervisor at Howelsen Hill, which opened in 1915. want to make sure everything is working properly and ready to go.
Shine said he was surprised to see temperatures approaching 22 degrees around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Although it was cold enough to make snow, Shine said crews were just checking Howelsen Hill’s dozen snow cannons in hopes of having everything ready to go by Friday, October 21.
Crews are also blowing out fire hydrants that supply water to snow cannons to remove debris that has accumulated over the summer. Howelsen is currently slated to open Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“The snow forecast looks like Sunday night through next Thursday we can get snow overnight,” Shine said. “We could produce snow for two or three days in a row if the weather is good. … You have to be aggressive with those cold snaps.
In his weather update on SnowAlarm.com on Sunday, October 16, Local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth wrote that a sudden weather change was coming this weekend. The Grand Junction National Weather Service is currently predicting teen temperatures will drop over the weekend, along with several chances of snow early next week.
If those favorable forecasts hold, Steamboat Resort is on track to start its snowmaking operation next week, said Loryn Duke, director of communications for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Snowmaking crews are in orientation this week and will be ready to launch Steamboat’s 320 snow cannons by the time favorable weather conditions arrive.
“It really depends on how the forecast plays out,” Duke said.
Steamboat Resort can produce snow on 334 acres, or about 11 percent of the resort’s nearly 3,000 acres of land. When conditions are ideal, Duke said, the resort can cover 40 acres with one foot of snow in just 24 hours.
“Opening day is scheduled for November 23, but it depends on the weather,” Duke said.
Last year, a lack of snow forced Steamboat Resort to delay opening day by a week, pushing it back to Nov. 27. Howelsen Hill also postponed the start of the season due to limited snow, eventually opening on December 1.
Resorts in Summit County, which are at higher elevations than Steamboat, began producing snow earlier this month, according to Summit Daily News. Copper Mountain began snowing the top of the mountain on October 4 in anticipation of a November 14 opening.
Keystone Ski Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort each started snowing Oct. 9 and plan to open as soon as possible.
In 2019, Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill opened early. The station’s start on November 15 was the oldest in its history. The November 14 start at Howelsen in 2019 was the first start in recent memory, although there are stories of ski jumps opening in October in the 1980s and early 90s.
Shine said his snowmaking team was thrilled for the season after Howelsen Hill had the longest season in its 106-year history last year.
“We’re ready to go and excited for next week’s predictions,” Shine said. “It’s snow season.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email [email protected].