Serious snowmaking a ritual of dry winter

Photo by CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—A bare plaza at the foot of Aspen Mountain is sign of a less-than-bountiful winter for snow at the ski resort. Other resorts in Colorado have resorted to fun in attempts to get the flurries flying.


Ski country shuffle

Go to for some snow dances at Colorado ski areas, including Powderhorn.

Not to say that it worked, not to give credit where it wasn’t due, not to frost that new powder with a layer of superstition, but ...

These are the facts: During the week or so after New Year’s, Crested Butte Mountain Resort hosted a contest on its Facebook page ( asking skiers and snowboarders what they’d be willing to offer to Ullr, Norse god of snow. Among the things offered were 100 cheeseburgers, an immortal soul, someone named Betty, $2 in nickels and an unsuspecting little sister.

On Jan. 16, the resort got 15 inches of new snow (no word on how Betty and the clueless sister are faring).

And then there’s this: That same day Crested Butte got 15 inches, members of the Southern Ute tribe visited Sunlight Mountain Resort to perform a snow dance and bless the mountain, a longtime tradition. Within 48 hours, there were 14 new inches of snow.

So, this is where we nervously titter and casually glance up, reconsidering everything there is to know about weather. It doesn’t work that way, right? Ha ha? Right?

Yet, the evidence is all in white, freshly gleaming on the slopes after the weekend’s bounty. Whatever it was, something worked — the offerings, the crossed fingers, the dancing.

Because oh, yes, there’s been dancing: shuffles and shimmies, a wiggle here, a scoot there, a chicken given a run for its money.

“Colorado Ski Country had a call to action for all of us to do a snow dance,” said Tricia Tittle, sales and communications manager for Powderhorn Mountain Resort. “So, we had our patrollers, our guests, all the different entities around the resort doing a snow dance.”

You can see it at It’s pretty awesome.

But while those dances are whimsical with tongues firmly in cheeks, Sunlight’s annual ceremony is an honored tradition, said Jennie Spillane, marketing manager.

“There’s usually five or six dancers and four gentlemen playing drums, and they do a ceremonial snow dance and do a prayer for the mountain,” she explained.

This year, Vail Resorts also got spiritual, asking Eddie Box Jr. of the Southern Ute Tribe to perform a snow dance on Jan. 7. Soon thereafter, 25 inches fell.

In a year when that capricious minx La Nina has kept snow levels way below seasonal averages and caused an outpouring of bitter tears, some people will do anything — anything — for snow. That includes making outlandish promises to a mysterious Norse god.

Long the wink-nudge among skiers and snowboarders, Ullr is the most popular guy in Colorado right now.

“We thought it would be really funny to have a contest asking people what they’d offer Ullr,” said Erica Reiger, communications manager for Crested Butte Mountain Resort. “People had a lot of fun with it, and we gave away a lift ticket a day to the best offering. Then we got 15 inches and you think, ‘Hmmm…’.”

She was joking, of course. Maybe.

Kim Oyler, communications director for Purgatory at Durango Mountain, said people in the southwest corner of the state haven’t had to run scampering to the nearest botanica for candles and whatnot because “we’ve been blessed with good conditions,” she said. “We had 95 percent of the mountain open by mid-December, and we’ve been one of the few Western ski resorts to have had nearly all the expert terrain open this year.”

Not to say that Ullr wouldn’t be welcome there. Or anywhere else in the state, really, and we’ve got a ready supply of cheeseburgers and little sisters to offer.


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