Nordic Center conducts snow experiment |

Nordic Center conducts snow experiment

Julie Sutor
Jason Sawin of CHS Snowmakers, a Littleton company, adjusts a snowmaking gun at Frisco's Nordic Center. Snowmaking began Monday night on the peninsula.

FRISCO – Despite clear skies, 13 inches of new snow fell in front of the day lodge at the Frisco Nordic Center early Tuesday morning.

Center operators, Gene and Therese Dayton, commissioned a successful snowmaking test as a preliminary step to exploring annual snowmaking for Nordic skiing in Summit County.

Having received approval for testing from the town of Frisco, the Daytons only needed temperatures to drop low enough for CHS Snowmaking of Littleton to turn about 2,000 gallons of water into snow crystals.

When temperatures hit 27 degrees at 2:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, CHS owner Jason Sawin hooked up an air compressor, three hoses, a water pump and two snowmaking guns and turned the brown ground white.

CHS will conduct additional snowmaking demonstrations for the community on the nearby sledding hill at the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area. Gene Dayton expects one more experiment will suffice to ready the hill for sledders by Thanksgiving.

Based on the success of Tuesday’s experiment, the Daytons will seek approval from the town to blow snow on an annual basis.

“We don’t have water rights or permission now, and I don’t know if it would be realistic for this year,” said Therese Dayton.

The Daytons said they are seriously considering expanding the Nordic Center – including construction of a larger day lodge and a wedding facility – and that early season snowmaking would provide necessary funding by lengthening the ski season.

“Snowmaking would be a big part of the next phase of Nordic skiing here,” Therese Dayton said.

According to Gene Dayton, 15-25 percent of the center’s annual revenue is generated on Thanksgiving weekend – when there’s snow. In the 2000-01 season, lack of snow forced back the opening to the day after Christmas.

With early season snowmaking, high school and college ski teams could train on snow earlier in the season without leaving the state. According to Therese Dayton, many skiers trek to the Yellowstone area for Thanksgiving camps.

If the Nordic Center could guarantee an early to mid-November opening date, teams could train in Frisco to cut down on travel time and expense, and local season pass holders could get a jumpstart on their season.

To guarantee a November opening date, Therese Dayton said the center would need to make snow for four to six nights in October to build a base.

CHS’ Sawin estimated that much snowmaking would require on the order of 100,000 gallons of water.

According to Sawin, 80 percent of the water used for snowmaking would be returned to the water table. The remaining 20 percent would be lost through evaporation.

“You can call it the white reservoir,” he said.

In comparison, Keystone Resort, the largest snowmaker in the U.S., uses about 240,000 gallons per hour over 80 days of snowmaking, varying according to humidity and temperature, according to Keystone spokesman Mike Lee.

The Daytons stressed that CHS’ snowmaking system is much simpler than those used at the alpine ski resorts.

“At the resorts it’s an incredible job with huge logistical challenges,” said Therese Dayton. “This would be a much smaller scale.”

According to Gene Dayton, the noise level during Tuesday morning’s snowblowing reached 70 decibels, what he described as akin to the noise level of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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