Powderhorn announces Dec. 13 opening

Forrest Aley, foreground, and Adam Werner, both of Palisade, take advantage of weekend snow Monday and head up the slope at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, which announced its plans to open Dec. 13.

Winter lovers rejoice. A flourish of snow that cloaked Grand Mesa over the weekend comes as a delight to skiers and officials at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.

As if on cue, after the mountain received 18 inches of snow, the resort announced plans to open Dec. 13.

Seeing white vistas to the east early in the year helps to sell season passes, Powderhorn Resort spokeswoman Gabrielle Michna said.

“Getting snow affects pass sales in a very good way,” she said. “I would say people are definitely snagging early passes.”

Powderhorn doesn’t release numbers of season pass sales, but it appeared those sales have been healthy so far this year, Michna said.

Season pass prices increase if purchased after Thursday.

As of Friday night, crews at Powderhorn steadily have been making snow, already blowing about 1 million gallons of water onto the terrain, Mountain Operations Manager Sam Williams said. That amount of snow is about one-tenth of the snow-making effort that occurred last year on the mountain.

“So that’s pretty good,” he said. “With the weather, we were able to get out with the Snowcat and get most of our runs packed down to set a base up before opening day.”

Williams said crews are working to create a solid snow base, which is about 20 inches. Getting that thickness will require about 8 to 10 more inches of snowpack, Williams said.

Powderhorn officials have worked out an agreement with the city of Grand Junction to buy water to make more snow, but a new pump station and pipeline needed to access Sommerville Reservoir haven’t yet been created, Williams said.

The mountain will feature three newly named ski runs. Skiers and boarders have been using the runs for years, but crews this year cleaned brush from the runs to make them more enjoyable. Those include Thunderbird, which is west of Snowcloud; Sven’s bend, a glade between Maverick and Tenderfoot; and Bronco, a run east of lower Snowcloud. Also, Bear Claw, a run on the mountain’s most western side, has received a face-lift, making it more accessible, Williams said.

Skiers and snowboarders should experience smoother and speedier rides on Powderhorn’s chair lifts this season, Williams said.

While the chair lifts won’t be moving faster, the resort is training lift operators to more quickly shuttle users on and off chairs, which should cut down on stalled and stop-and-go lift rides. Also, crews have performed maintenance on the lifts to create a smoother ride, Williams said.

While upgrades to equipment and new runs are nice, the best skiing and boarding happens thanks to a little love from Mother Nature.

Early snowfall last season graced Powderhorn’s slopes, but the resort’s base, like other resorts around the state, lost inches as the winter season progressed. At times last year, Powderhorn boasted some of the most snow compared with Colorado’s other major ski resorts.

Whether snow lovers will see a repeat of last year is anyone’s guess at this time, Meteorologist Dennis Phillips said. Phillips, who works for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said predictions of an El Niño winter have been reversed. El Niño is characterized by unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. La Niña is an unusual cooling of the water there. El Niño winters tend to create milder weather over the northern portions of the U.S. and wetter conditions in the Southern states, according to the National Weather Service.

It appears the long-range winter forecast for the area is calling for equal chances of either a wet or a dry winter, Phillips said.

While that’s not much consolation for those considering buying season ski passes, at least the weather arriving this next weekend is expected to again whet skiers appetites for snow.

“This one was cold,” Phillips said of last weekend’s storm. “The next one won’t be quite as cold. We’ll get something (precipitation), just not feet of snow.”


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