The Aspen Skiing Co. wants to complement Mother Nature's snowfall, as well as compliment it, by blowing its own this week.
The Skico planned to get a jump on its usual snowmaking schedule by firing up snowmaking guns on the lower slopes of Aspen Mountain on Wednesday night. Snowmaking started at about 9 p.m. The snarl of the snowmaking guns is the first sure signs of ski season, and music to the ears of many Aspenites.
Senior Vice President David Perry said the plan was to make snow on Little Nell, in the Grand Junction area and the lower slopes of the Lift 1A side. Aspen Mountain is hosting women's World Cup ski racing the first weekend of the season, Nov. 28 and 29, so it wants to get as much coverage on the slopes as possible.
The Skico traditionally doesn't start blowing snow before Nov. 1, and warm temperatures often delay efforts until later in the month. A storm arrived Tuesday night and deposited several inches of snow as of Wednesday evening. Cold temperatures are expected to hang around, so the Skico seized the opportunity. The best snowmaking occurs when temperatures fall below 20 degrees.
The Skico will tap its small reservoir at the bottom of the Gent's Ridge chairlift to provide water for the effort. It will gravity feed snowmaking systems on the lower slopes. That reduces energy consumption because no compressors are needed for the effort.
If the early wintery weather continues, the effort will have been for naught, noted Rich Burkley, vice president of mountain operations. On the other hand, the snowmaking could come in handy for the World Cup races.
"It's kind of an insurance policy," Burkley said.