High Country: Last year’s lean snow fueled snowmaking innovation for this season
Snowmakers and groomers saved the extra-lean 2011-12 season, and this time around the formerly hidden heroes are taking a starring role.As snowmaking guns begin blowing this month, the state’s snowmakers are employing the latest techniques, strategies and equipment to lay down the initial base that will anchor ski runs for the next several months. Last year’s dismal snow – 50 percent of normal – honed those snowmaking tactics by revealing gaps and holes typically concealed by Colorado’s ample snowfall.”We discovered a couple key areas during last year’s lack of snow and extraordinary wind events, and we are going to fix those areas this year,” Arapahoe Basin chief Alan Henceroth said.A-Basin this past summer built 700 feet of 8-foot-high snow fence at the top of the ski area. The fences filter blowing snow into huge piles that groomers then farm across the mountain, covering thin spots.Snowmakers had a banner fall last year, with perfect conditions thanks to a wet summer that left mountain creeks swollen and icy early-season temperatures. Many resorts opened early in a season that surged to a hopeful start but staggered to a sad finish.This drought-stricken year, late-summer rains have helped, but creeks are low. Still, temperatures are dropping, and many resorts have started making snow.This year, the all-night snowmakers are relying on innovations tapped last year. At Vail Mountain, for example, snowmakers scraped together systems to cover areas not traditionally blanketed with man-made snow, using snowmobile gas tanks to fuel pumps and power fans. Groomers who typically rake snow strapped buckets to their rigs’ blades so they could move snow to thin areas.”These guerrilla snowmaking tactics allowed us to cover areas that needed an extra hand,” Vail spokeswoman Liz Biebl said. “Our snowmakers were able to come up with innovative ways to make snow in areas where permanent snowmaking doesn’t exist and hadn’t been needed.”To read this article in its entirety, go to http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_21773752/last-years-lean-snow-fueled-snowmaking-innovation-this
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