Vail Mountain, CO, turned on its snowguns yesterday and joined several Colorado resorts in snowmaking. Copper Mountain, Keystone, Loveland, and Arapahoe Basin (and Killington in Vermont) have all started snowmaking in the last week or so.
The resort strives for its earliest Opening Day this upcoming 22/23 winter season, slated for November 11, 2022 (Veterans Day). If all goes to plan, they will beat last year’s November 12 record by one day, one of the earliest Opening Days in decades. The resort will rely on Mother Nature and upgrades to its state-of-the-art snowmaking system, which was installed in 2019, one of the most significant projects to take place on the mountain since the mid-1980s when Vail installed its first detachable chairlifts.
The snowmaking team at Vail is on a mission and confident they can make it happen. Each season since the new snowmaking system was installed, Vail’s snowmaking team has gotten better at operating the guns and has learned more about the system’s ins and outs regarding its efficiency. Specific placement of the guns will be crucial, and a lot of thought goes into where the snow cannons are positioned to maximize snow and work best. Both are essential in the longevity of the snow and the team’s ability to reach their targeted opening day goal.
Kate Schifani, Vail’s Director of Moutain Operations, and her team have done their fair share of off-season work. They’ve been busy, in her words, “digging holes, moving weapons, putting things where they weren’t before… maybe new installations.” She told CBS Denver:
“Our goal is to make less snow every year and make people think we’ve never done so much in history…The whole idea is to say we want to maximize what we have. We don’t want to waste a single drop of snow. We want exactly the quantity where we want it, when we want it and not a bit more.”
Most of Vail’s new snowmaking technology focuses on higher elevation runs, which see colder temperatures and are ideal for early-season snowmaking. As Mid-Vail is 2,000 feet higher and typically colder than Lionshead, the top of Gondola One will become the new base area at Vail, allowing the mountain to open earlier in the future. Skiers and riders can download via the gondola to end their day when necessary.
Vail has 5,317 acres of skiable terrain, 195 trails, and 31 lifts. However, most of the mountain does not open until after the holidays when colder temperatures and natural snowfall help supply a deeper and necessary snow base to the resort.