Vermont Ski Resorts Celebrate Snowy Forecast and Start of Snowmaking Season
MONTPELIER, Vt. - Stick season is no time to hibernate as ski resort employees excitedly prepare for opening day, just a month away at some Vermont areas. In addition to the natural snow hitting Vermont this week, more than ghosts and goblins will be outfitted in snowsuits soon.
With another snowy La Nina winter slated and epic predictions from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, snowmaking operations will commence with early season rail jams and the laying of a smooth and pristine snow base. In fact, annual snowmaking at Vermont ski areas covers 4,360 acres of terrain with more than 120 chairlifts accessing those abundant trails; a land area five times the size of New York’s Central Park.
Thanks to dutiful snowmakers and sophisticated technology, Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional opening for Vermont skiing; so it is with reverence that Ski Vermont proposes that dedicated skiers and riders visit Vermont ski resorts and hug a snowmaker - they’ve worked hard to make this holiday a white one.
And while many New Englanders digest in front of the big game, keep in mind, "With over 600 miles of snowmaking pipes and superior snow guns, Vermont ski resorts have enough capacity to fill Gillette Stadium with over 40 feet of snow in one hour," said Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle.
Vermont has the most terrain covered by snowmaking in the East. This snowmaking prowess allows many resorts to jumpstart the season by opening earlier, with more quality terrain. Come carve some turns after carving the turkey! Here’s some much anticipated Ski Vermont opening dates and snowmaking info from the resorts:
Nov. 19: Mount Snow, Okemo Mountain Resort, Stowe Mountain Resort, Sugarbush Resort
Nov. 23: Stratton Mountain Resort
Nov. 25: Bromley Mountain Resort, Jay Peak Resort, Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Dec. 10: Bolton Valley Resort, Burke Mountain Resort
Dec. 16: Pico Mountain, Suicide Six Ski Area
Dec. 17: Magic Mountain
*Killington Resort: As early as snowmaking operations permit.
* Mad River Glen: As soon as available after Thanksgiving.
Bromley was busy this summer with many upgrades to its already top notch snowmaking system. They upgraded their fiber optic communications that tie the system together and help it run at peak energy efficiency and purchased new HKD high efficiency snowguns, The resort replaced sections of water and air pipe all over the mountain. During the complete makeover of the learning zone, including a new warming hut with bathrooms and a new 250’ carpet lift, the resort also installed all new water and air pipes, to ensure that customers taking lessons have the best snow experience possible. In all, $150,000 was spent in upgrades to the snowmaking system, to keep Bromley at the top of the list when it comes to snow.
The anticipation among skiers and riders is building as the start of another ski and snowboard season approaches. The anticipation among Vermont’s snowmakers is even more palpable. With the system charged, snowmaking guns poised and staff at the ready, crews are eagerly awaiting the middle-of-the-night call to start making snow at Okemo Mountain Resort. Cool weather is all that’s needed to allow snowmaking efforts to commence in preparation for opening day.
Although the mountain typically receives 200 inches of natural snowfall annually, Okemo has spent 30 years building its reputation for superlative snow and surface conditions through its arsenal of snowmaking guns and snow management practices. Okemo has the capability to cover 96 percent of its terrain with snowmaking and this year the emphasis is, once again, on making snow more efficiently and exploring viable ways to make snow at closer-to-freezing temperatures, allowing the resort to open more lower-elevation terrain earlier in the season. Fifteen new HKD tower guns, designed to project snow with pinpoint accuracy are being installed in areas like narrow slopes and ski home access trails requiring focused, directional throw. The HKD Genesis guns feature adjustable water flow levers, nozzle versatility and new valving technology.
Okemo covers more than 600 acres of terrain with snowmaking. HKD tower guns make up the majority of the 1100 guns in Okemo’s arsenal. Okemo’s dedication to providing a quality snow surface is directly proportionate to the amount of water that can be stored for making snow - among other things. With the addition of Jackson Gore a decade ago, Okemo’s demand for water increased substantially. What was previously a 70 million gallon snowmaking pond is now a massive, 70-foot deep reservoir that holds 155 million gallons of water. In a typical year, Okemo pumps about 450 million gallons of water through its snowmaking system. Last year, Okemo converted more than half a billion gallons of water into packed-powder conditions. For more information please call 1-800-78-OKEMO (786-5366) or visit www.okemo.com.
Few ski resorts east of the Rocky Mountains receive more snowfall than Stowe Mountain Resort, averaging 333 inches annually. Add to that, enhanced capabilities for delivering the some of the industries highest standards of snowmaking and grooming, and Stowe offers a world-class winter alpine experience. Stowe is also the first resort in New England to join PistenBully’s Elite Fleet program. This is a program of Kassbohrer All Terrain Vehicles, (KATV) that is offered to clients who operate an exclusive fleet of PistenBully snow grooming equipment. The Elite Fleet program forms partnerships between resorts and KATV, creating synergies for more efficient grooming fleets and establishing high-standards of operation that member resorts must meet.
PistenBully has been specially designed for operation on steep slopes. A prime example is the PistenBully 600 W winchcat. The self contained winch-mounted groomer allows the snow pushed downhill by skiers and riders to be placed back onto steep pitches with precision and control, while letting the driver to concentrate on all the essentials of slope preparation. Another specialty of PistenBully is building terrain parks. Geometrical changes to the groomer and increased range of movement provide the extreme range of travel required to groom meticulous terrain features such as spines, gaps, quarter pipes and tabletop jumps, in a fraction of the time.
Stowe also recently added 110 million gallons of water storage in a newly constructed lake and York Fully Automated Snowmaking to its world-class cache of mountain preparation resources. Now, skiers and riders can enjoy outstanding grooming and snowmaking coverage over more than 80 percent of Stowe’s mountain terrain. Stowe Mountain Resort is enjoying a dramatic resurgence, fueled by a 400 million dollar resort-wide revitalization project.
This season, Stratton revamps the mountain experience from planning to playing. The resort, crowning the highest peak in southern Vermont, is adding two new trails, a terrain park on Big Ben, two new groomers and 300 energy efficient tower snow guns.
"With 300 powerful new snowguns, 220 million gallons of water at hand and the combined experience of our snowmakers and groomers, we have the raw material to roll out that white carpet," said Mike Quinn, Stratton’s Vice President of Operations. "In fact our system is so powerful, we can cover a football field in three feet of snow in just one hour."
Snowmaking blankets 95 percent of the terrain. While no one would quibble with what Mother Nature gives you, at Stratton the snowmakers are in charge of quality control of this science and art form, adjusting the mixture to suit the season. Early on, the recipe calls for more water to make a denser, more durable, base snow which is then topped off with a lighter, fluffier snow that is crafted with a greater concentration of air.
One way they check their work is with the sleeve test. "Let the snow fall on your sleeve, and if it sticks that’s good base snow," explains Lynn "Cape" Capen, 35 year veteran Stratton snowmaker. "If it bounces, like good snowball snow, it will hold up to traffic. Powder floats off your sleeve."
Experience definitely makes a difference. "We have our game plan, starting two or three days out," Cape explained. "But out there on gun runs, we have to be ready to adapt to changing conditions, whether it’s wind speed and direction or rising humidity, falling temperatures ... Always adjusting the blend."
Stratton makes snow at every opportunity, straight through the season. Because it is all about the snow. And while many a mountain touts great snow, Stratton guarantees it! Skiers and riders are invited to go out for an hour -- Any time, any day -- and if they’re not happy, they’ll get a ticket for another day. That’s confidence.
This historic Nordic ski resort plans to start snowmaking earlier this season, aiming for mid to late November. They look forward to testing out a new cutting edge fan gun that will increase season production- by up to six times previous productivity if temperatures allow. There’s a very experienced and motivated crew chomping at the bit- eager to see how the 2011-2012 winter will shape up. Keep apprised online via Facebook or www.trappfamily.com. Let (us make) it snow!
Smugglers’ Notch Resort plans to kick off ski and ride the day after Thanksgiving, with intermediate terrain on Sterling Mountain available for skiers and riders to enjoy with early season lift ticket and lodging pricing. Snowmaking typically launches earlier in November when temperatures allow for efficient operations. The resort’s fleet of 300 snowmaking guns provide supplemental coverage to natural snowfall on the bulk of beginner and intermediate terrain, with Mother Nature taking care of the glades and high elevation expert trails where natural features make snowmaking less efficient. "Smugglers’ is blessed with generous natural snowfall," notes resort President Bob Mulcahy. "Last winter the snow started early and steadily kept coming to total 341 inches for the season. Memories of last year’s great snowfall are generating a lot of excitement for the coming season."
A popular early season event is the resort’s annual BrewFest showcasing local and regional breweries, which will be held on December 3. Now in its 17th year, the evening features a DJ, munchies and giveaways along with eight beer samples and a souvenir glass for the $18 entry price.
The resort’s extensive family programs begin on December 9, 2011 with SuperSaver pricing in effect through December 17, 2011. SuperSaver rates start at $79 per youth (3-17) and $109 per adult per night. Learn more at www.smuggs.com; 1-800-451-8752.
Bolton Valley plans to open for the 2011-2012 ski and snowboard season on Saturday, Dec. 10. Snowmaking at Bolton begins in late November and a plethora of deals and activities are in place for the month of December.
One of Bolton’s special December holiday deals returns again this season for those who want to ski or snowboard free. On Sunday, Dec. 18, those skiers and riders who show up in complete Santa attire-not just a red coat or furry red hat, we’re talking the whole complete package head to toe-will earn a free lift ticket for that day.
Bolton Valley is the first in Vermont and the second in the U.S. to implement wind power as an energy source. Approximately 88km of high elevation Nordic terrain, a complete sports center and indoor amusement center plus Vermont’s most extensive top-to-bottom night skiing and riding are just a few of the extras available to guests. All-inclusive, true ski-to-your-door lodging packages are from $79/person/night. For more information visit www.boltonvalley.com.