Saturday, September 10, 2005

Steamboat Ski area beefing up snowmaking & preparing for for future lifts

The Steamboat Ski Corp is investing in additional snowmaking and grooming capacity for the coming ski season. The snowmaking equipment is targeted for a combination of efficiency and increased reach to deliver more snow to the terrain park and key high traffic areas. New snowcats are targeted at better park maintenance and more nightly grooming coverage. I was never much of a fan of grooming until the introduction of shaped skis a few years ago. Now they better stay in their bed on a powder day but if no new snow has fallen in a few days I can't get enough of fast carving runs on my trusty Volkls.

The remainder of this year's capital budget is focued on getting approval for the new Steamboat ski area master plan. Once that is approved and American Skiing ponys up we are on our way to a new high-speed lift form the base area. This would be a big improvement and take care of some of Steamboat's longest lines on peak days (which are still shorter than the average lines at most front range resorts along the I-70 corridor). a high-speed replacement for the Sunshine lift is also slated.

Selected quotes from the Steamboat Pilot article:
Steamboat Ski Area's budget beefs up snowmaking, grooming By Tom Ross, Staff Reporter

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is investing in more firepower this fall to help ensure snowboarders and free skiers get to play in the terrain park a little earlier this season. It's part of an announced $1.5 million capital budget. More efficient snowmaking heads on sleds and an extra snowcat devoted to the SoBe terrain park should help Steamboat improve on last year's mid-December opening of its terrain park.

The meat of this year's capital budget is a $200,000 investment in getting Steamboat Ski Area's five-year master plan update through the environmental process. Successfully guiding the five-year plan through the National Environmental Policy Act approval process isn't as glamorous as the replacement of the Burgess Creek Chairlift last year. However, it's a necessary precursor to taking big steps on the mountain, Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said.

Among the more dramatic projects included in the five-year plan is a high-speed replacement for the Sunshine lift. There also is something new for Steamboat in the plan -- a six-pack chairlift. It would replace a collection of aging chairlifts that currently clutter the lowest slopes at the ski area. The master plan underwent a public review in 2004.

Steamboat will acquire 42 new snowmaking guns this fall. Of the total, 15 will replace older, less-efficient snowmaking heads with new equipment. The remaining 27 will be 15-foot tall tower guns mounted on sleds. Their portability will allow snowmaking crews to concentrate more firepower on the terrain park during the crucial time of year, Allen said.

Allen's snowmaking crews also will go to extraordinary lengths this winter to deliver man-made snow to small areas that get a lot of skier and snowboarder traffic. One such area is on Lower High Noon and Daybreak trails, where skiers resuming their day after lunch at Rendezvous Saddle cruise in the direction of the Sundown Express lift. Although the Priest Creek area, where the two trails are located, get some of the heaviest snowfall on Mount Werner, Lower High Noon and Daybreak are in the shadow of a hill and don't get the same abundance of snow. Nor are they among the 333 acres covered by Steamboat's snowmaking system. "Those trails receive a lot of traffic and less natural snow," Allen said. "We experimented last winter with airless guns and long hoses and showed that with even a little bit of snowmaking, we could make a huge difference."
Full story in the Steamboat Pilot here

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