Paige Blankenbuehler
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October 2, 2012
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Copper Mountain the first to make snow this season

Copper Mountain has officially won the snowmaking race for Colorado resorts, firing up equipment Tuesday, exactly one month prior to its opening day, slated for Nov. 2.

The ski area began blowing snow from 28 snowguns to cover the Copperopolis run, the site of the resort's U.S. Ski Team Speed Center, scheduled to open later this month.

Throughout October the resort will continue to expand its snowmaking operations to ensure top-to-bottom terrain by opening day, according to Katherine Bush, spokeswoman for Copper.

"Copper's snowmaking team saw an early opportunity and was aggressive with its approach," Bush said. "We're thrilled to be the first resort in Colorado to begin snowmaking this season."

Slope maintenance and snowmaking manager of Copper, Mike Looney, said the "wet-bulb temperature," a figure dependent on temperature and humidity, allowed for sustainable snowmaking.

The speed center offers camps and training facilities to World Cup athletes and national teams during the early season, the Copperopolis run is reserved for their use.

The center is a full-length alpine racing venue with 87 automatic snowmaking guns dedicated to the space, making it one of the state's largest snowmaking operations.

Copper proved a worthy competitor among other early bird ski areas last winter when it began blowing snow Oct. 6, the same day as Loveland and Arapahoe Basin ski areas.

"It's a good-natured race to be the first high-altitude, small resort making snow," said Adrienne Saia Isaac, spokeswoman for A-Basin. "It brings a sense of pride to achieve those conditions first, but we're just not quite there yet - we're waiting to get prime conditions for snowmaking."

Alan Henceroth, CEO of A-Basin, said conditions for snowmaking are looking promising for this evening.

"A few degrees one way or another can be the difference between marginal and great snowmaking," Henceroth wrote on the company blog Tuesday. "My money is on a few really good nights this week. Stay tuned - think cold, real cold."

Anxious to begin snowmaking, Isaac said A-Basin's snowmaking crew is still waiting for that "perfect number."

"We are completely weather dependent here and our snowmaking managers are waiting for a wet-bulb temperature of 28 degrees, which requires slightly cooler, less humid conditions," she said. "This really ties into our sustainability initiatives to ensure that our resources are used to their capacity and aren't wasted."

Loveland and Keystone Resort are also awaiting lower temperatures.

According to John Sellers, marketing and communications director for Loveland, its snowmaking equipment is ready to go as soon as the weather cools down.

"This week temperatures are turning in our favor," Sellers said. "We should be able to start blowing snow in the next couple of days."

Keystone has officially set the date for snowmaking as Oct. 10, but will begin testing out its equipment today according to Tucker Vest Burton, spokeswoman for the resort.

Breckenridge Ski Resort has slated snowmaking to commence Oct. 17 if conditions permit.

"We're getting really excited to see other resorts gearing up for this and as long as the weather permits, we will start making snow during the second week of October," said Kristen Petitt-Stewart, spokeswoman for the resort. "I foresee no issues for our Nov. 9 opening."

The wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be reached under current ambient conditions by the evaporation of water. It's largely determined by both actual air temperature and humidity. Achieving a low wet-bulb temperature requires dry conditions and low temperatures.

Copper's snowmaking manager Looney said that 32 degrees at 90 percent humidity is equivalent to a wet-bulb of 31 degrees while 32 degrees at 10 percent humidity is equivalent to approximately 23 degrees.

Avid skiers, riders and ski area officials are known to watch the weather report constantly this time of year.

The rest of the week, high temperatures are forcasted to range from 63 degrees to 46 degrees, with low temperatures ranging from 34 degrees to 27 degrees.

The probability of precipitation is at the lowest today, with a 4 percent chance of rain or snow. Later in the week, the probability of precipitation increases slightly to a 22 percent chance of snow or rain on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 3, 2012 03:06PM Published Oct 2, 2012 09:28PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.