50 people lined up beneath beautiful bluebird skies yesterday to get in their first runs of the season, as Winter Park Resort, CO celebrated their best opening day in 10-years. This was just the start of the season, but director of public relations and communications for the resort Steve Hurlbert said it started strong.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Hurlbert said. “We’ve gotten 45.5 inches of snow, which is the most we’ve had for an opening day in 10 years, so ski conditions are great.”
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The resort opened with 55 acres of terrain, including eight trails and five lifts. The resort’s new 10-person gondola was not yet operational, but the new $4 million snowmaking systems were turned on to top off the 45.5 inches of snow the resort received in the past two weeks.
“The snow was great, nice and fast, great carving snow today,” said one local resident Karen Wilkie.
Although Colorado has had a great start to the snow season, with snowpack at 200% of average in some areas, the addition of the new $4-million snowmaking system at Winter Park is what has really made the difference. Winter Park was one of the first ski areas in Colorado to implement a snowmaking system in 1976, but the system remained pretty much untouched over the next four decades, other than the odd repair.
“It’s going to really hit home with people how important these upgrades are,” Resort Spokesperson Steve Hurlbert said. The new system, which includes laying 40,000 feet of new pipe and adding new guns, has increased the resort’s snowmaking capacity threefold. “The gondola is the sexy new addition,” Hurlbert continued, “But I’d argue that snow making upgrades are just as important because they allow us to accelerate opening our prized terrain.”
Prized terrain you say?
“We’re looking at opening Sunspot by Thanksgiving, and Mary Jane soon after that,” Hurlbert said. “If snow making allows us to consistently open Mary Jane around Thanksgiving, that’s game changer for us.”
Because most of the snow on the Jane side still comes from Mother Nature, it usually can’t be opened until early December. But the Jane trail and Sleeper will receive some man-made stuff this year, as they are key runs on that side of the mountain. And as snowmaking improvements continue throughout the years, Mary Jane and other upper mountain areas will likely see more artificial snow.