Keystone Resort sets up new high-efficiency snow guns in hopes of an earlier start to the season
With the race to opening day going strong and (hopefully) coming up soon, Keystone Resort is ramping up the competition with new snowmaking technology. The resort just replaced 50 of their snow guns, which were previously manual or semi-automatic, with new high-efficiency and fully automatic snow guns.
Chris Ingham, director of mountain operations at Keystone Resort, said the resort plans to start snowmaking by the end of the month as their snow guns are most efficient at 27 degrees Fahrenheit. The new snow guns will increase the rate of conversion from water to snow without upping water usage and some of the machines feature a “swinging arm” that evenly disperses the snow.
“The motivation for putting in these new snow guns was to get us open as early as possible to get a better value for our early season Epic passholders,” said Ingham.
One of the most impressive features of the new snow guns is the individual weather systems that are attached to each gun. According to Ingham, these systems determine when snowmaking can begin and automatically turn on the machine when conditions permit. This reduces the manpower needed to operate the machines and maximizes their use as the machines can immediately turn on in the middle of the night when there’s a dip in temperature.
Loryn Roberson, communications manager for Keystone Resort, said Keystone typically opens around Nov. 7, but with the new technology, the resort hopes to open sooner. Roberson also pointed out that Keystone was one of the first ski areas in Summit that had snowmaking, allowing for a much earlier season.
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The new snow guns will contribute snow to the runs Schoolmarm and Last Chance on the front facing Dercum Mountain. The full snowmaking plan is still in the works.
While the new snowmaking equipment allows for more snow to be created, they are also expected to be more environmentally friendly than the old snow guns. Ingham explained that the snow guns use less compressed air, which saves a significant amount of electricity. He stressed that the resort won’t be using any more water than they did last year for snowmaking, but the more efficient process will allow for the snowmaking team to make better use of the water in a shorter amount of time.
Keystone also worked with the U.S. Forest Service to address the disturbance that occurred during the replacement of the snow guns and is replanting the area with native grasses where machinery impacted the existing vegetation.
During the process, the resort also took the opportunity to replace power lines. The purpose of this is to help separate the lights from the snowmaking machines so that lights don’t have to be on when the snowmaking machines are running. Before, this wasn’t possible and lights would be on at unnecessary times. While this will not yet be corrected entirely, there will be some lights that can be turned on and off separately.
Over at neighboring Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the snow guns are poised on the hill and ready for testing. The snowmaking team will be out working with the equipment for their training sessions starting Wednesday. The ski area is aiming for a mid-October opening.
Loveland Ski Area announced in a tweet on Tuesday that testing for their snow guns has officially begun and they are 12 days away from their set snowmaking start date of Sept. 29.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area communications manager Katherine Fuller cautioned that while ski areas are doing everything they can to open as early as possible, when the ski areas open and proper conditions for snowmaking occur is still ultimately in the hands of Mother Nature.
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