Copper fires up the big guns |

Copper fires up the big guns

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Copper Mountain employees began making snow Wednesday night, as rain fell on most of Summit County.

This is the second year the resort has been the first to start snowmaking, Copper Mountain officials said. Last year, the ski area began making snow Oct. 3 and was the first resort in the country to open.

Early last October, Copper Mountain opened to skiers and boarders for two days to raise money for the Sept. 11 disaster relief fund- then reopened at the beginning of November, said Copper Mountain Communications Coordinator Beth Jahnigen.

This year, resort officials said they plan to open Nov. 2.

Though several weeks and predicted temperate days lie between now and opening day, it’s not likely the resort will lose much snow to warm temperatures, said Hardy Merrill, Copper Mountain snowmaking supervisor.

“We’re only making snow at the highest elevation and the best northern aspect trail,” he said, adding that even much of the past week’s snow dustings still remain in that area.

Not only is the early snowmaking a preparation for opening day, but the resort also is expecting World Cup teams to train there in late October. Snowmaking crews are working to ensure a high-quality snow surface for the training, Merrill said.

The drought also has motivated resort officials to get an early start on snowmaking.

“This year is a historic drought year,” Merrill said. “It would really behoove us to start making snow as early as we can, because now there’s water in the stream, and there’s no minimum stream flow issues. Stream flows are only going to continue to drop between now and December.”

Copper usually stops its snowmaking operations around Christmas, he said.

According to Jahnigen, the resort uses water from Tenmile and West Tenmile creeks and Copper’s West Lake to make the artificial snow.

“Copper Mountain appears to be in really good shape as far as water rights,” Merrill said. “Even if the stream flow along Tenmile Creek was below the limit, we could physically release water from Clinton Reservoir” to raise stream flows.

Copper Mountain owns a share of the water in Clinton Reservoir, near Mayflower Gulch off Highway 91 between Copper and Leadville. Resort officials said the reservoir currently full.

Elsewhere in the county, officials at Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Breckenridge all said they plan to begin making snow in mid-October. Keystone officials plan to open Nov. 1, Breckenridge on Nov. 15 and A-Basin on Nov. 27.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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