Thursday, October 31, 2013

Still Snowing

Nice, Steady Storm

This has been a very nice storm.  3" new yesterday, 2" new today, snowing nicely right now. Excellent skiing with more terrain on the way. Happy Halloween. Is it really still October?  It feels like late November or December.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tour de Sundance

I just took a late day spin on the Upper Mountain and Sundance.  When I headed up the hill snow was falling nicely and visibility was limited on the Upper Mountain.  I didn't bother grabbing my camera.  Big mistake.  Coming down, patches of sun broke through really lighting up Black Mountain, Dave's Wave, and The Professor.  Today you will have to settle for the old, usual pictures from my office deck.  Not really bad views though.

We are still making a little snow on the Upper Mountain, fattening up a few more spots.  The majority of the snowmaking resources are being utilized on Sundance.  I walked down the trail.  Very good.  The snowmaking forecast the next 48 hours is excellent.  Hope to get that trail open for you soon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Benchmark Dates

We track a lot of benchmark dates at A-Basin. The ski area has been open since December 1946. Unfortunately, we only have really good dates for the last 25 years. Here are some interesting benchmarks for Arapahoe Basin trivia buffs.

Earliest Opening - October 9, 2009. I have long heard rumor of a huge fall storm, perhaps September 1961, that led to a very early opening at A-Basin. I hear the same story from people at Loveland. Maybe one of these days I will dive into the NOAA records and figure that one out. Maybe someone with that knowledge will comment on this blog. The installation of snowmaking in 2002 changed our opening from a mid-November/mid-December date to mid-October.

Latest Closing - August 10, 1995. Not only was that one of our biggest snowfall seasons, but there was a combined snowfall in February, March, April, and May of 303 inches. We were 100% open well into June.

Longest Season - 1994-95. That season had 245 operating days lasting from December 9, 1994 through August 10, 1995.  I have to admit the final days required downloading on Exhibition, uphill loading at Old Mid-Lenawee, a lot of walking in Dercum's Gulch with skiing on Lenawee Face and Humbug. It was a very interesting experiment that draws some great and very funny memories (comical) from those of us that were there.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

High Noon vs. Lenawee

A few people have asked why we don't open the Upper Mountain first under the assumption that it is colder up there and we could make snow sooner and open sooner. I wrote a post about this a couple of years ago. I couldn't find the post after a very quick look so I will write it up again, hopefully being consistent with my first post.

To start, there are a lot of snowmaking strategies we could use. High Noon is the shortest and most direct trail we can make snow on that allows us to open a chairlift (Molly Hogan excluded).  Lenawee Face / Dercum's Gulch is quite a bit longer than High Noon.  While the Upper Mountain is colder than the Lower Mountain, I am not sure the difference in temperature would make a big swing in when we open.  In fact, because the Upper Mountain trail is longer and requires much more snowmaking (and has a little trickier snowmaking), we would likely open later if we started up there.

We have downloaded before. In fact, pre-snowmaking we downloaded regularly with old Exhibition Lift. I am sure we will download again, perhaps in a summer skiing scenario.  It works. It takes more time. BMX's downloading capacity is 25% of its uploading capacity. On even a regular day, you can expect lines waiting to download.  On a busy day, you can expect big lines.

When we open with BMX and High Noon, we have 1 lift and 1 trail.  When we add Ramrod, we have 1 lift and 2 trails. If we went to the Summit to start, we would have 2 lifts and 1 trail.  I think for early season High Noon makes better sense. In my mind it is less hassle, cheaper to operate, a better guest experience and probably has an earlier opening.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Snowmaking on Sundance began Thursday night.  Great start there. Maybe by this time next week, we will be talking about opening that trail.

Two Chairlifts Today

Lenawee Mountain Lift opened at 9 AM this morning.  It is good to have two chairlifts running.  While there were a few folks around today, the lift lines were very reasonable.  The skiing was great and the skies were blue most of the day.  Dercum's Gulch and Lenawee Face were wide and the snow was deep. In the evenings we will still be running several fan guns on the Upper Mountain and those trails will be a bit bigger and wider each day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lenawee Will Open Friday

Lenawee Mountain Lift will open tomorrow, Friday October 25 about mid-morning. The chairlift will serve Lenawee Face and Dercum's Gulch. As the photos show, this will be an exceptional opening. The timing of this year's Upper Mountain Opening could not have worked out better. Streamflows, reservoir levels, and temperatures have been ideal for the last 2 weeks. This is also a very early upper mountain opening.  I believe the earliest since a legendary early winter back in the early 1960's. Tomorrow's opening will be about 2-3 weeks ahead of what we have experienced since the installation of snowmaking in 2002.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Winch Cat

This afternoon and into the evening both Scott and Dorse will be operating snowcats and getting the Upper Mountain ready. When I saw them about an hour ago, they were operating the winch cat on Lenawee Face. In areas where we make or groom snow, the snow gets moved around a lot by us with snowcats and by skiers and riders as they turn. A regular snowcat can move snow around flat areas and downhill areas quite well.  Because snow is heavy, it is tough to push uphill.  We use a winch cat for that.  As you can see in this top picture, there is a big winch and cable on the cat that is attached to an uphill anchor.  The winch helps pull the cat and the snow uphill. That anchor can be portable like another snowcat or it can be a fixed point.  We have many fixed anchors scattered around the mountain.

Tomorrow morning the mountain staff is going to take a good look at tonight's grooming and snowmaking progress.  Once we have made adequate snow, there is still 18-24 hours of work removing snowmaking equipment, putting on the final grooming touches, and getting the last stuff (ropes, pads, signs, etc.) ready.  The Upper Mountain will not open Thursday.  We hope to open it before the weekend.  Look for a definitive announcement tomorrow.  It looks great up there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Nice Way To Finish The Day

Morning Light

Took another morning tour of Lenawee today.  Very cool light on the summit just as the sun broke over the ridge. The snowmaking guns were all running. This is going to be a really good opening. Most of it is ready now. We are going to finish the last spots that need snow and fatten up the others.  Exact date for the Upper Mountain opening is still to be determined, except to say that it will be this week.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Snow Update

It was a little storm leaving about 1.5 inches on the ground.  Snowmaking was OK last night working primarily on Lenawee Traverse. A glitch slowed us down a bit, but tonight should be full on. The cat drivers continue to work on grooming and dozing. The forecast for the week looks incredible with bluebird, sunny days and cold nights.

Elsa Bailey - Polar Bears

Last May Elsa Bailey celebrated her 100th birthday at A-Basin skiing Pika Place. It was a very touching and special day for everyone that participated. Elsa was interviewed by the press many times. In those interviews she discussed a "bucket list" of goals.  One of those goals included seeing the polar bears in Churchill Manitoba. I recently saw a story on the news that said she did go to Manitoba and see the polar bears.

Yesterday at The Basin, I met a woman named Becky Pahl that works for the adventure travel company "Natural Habitat." Becky shared Elsa'a polar bear story with me. Her company happens to offer polar bear trips. After seeing Elsa's A-Basin's birthday story on the news, Becky and her co-workers contacted Elsa and arranged for her to go to Churchill. I have attached a link to a very good story on Elsa's visit from the Winnipeg Free Press. Thank you to Natural Habitat for adding another great chapter to Elsa's story.

To learn more about "Natural Habitat" check out these links:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Little Storm

Another little storm appears to be rolling in. NOAA is predicting 2-4 inches this afternoon and tonight. When I was on the Summit about noon, I could see the clouds building to the West.  This afternoon some light snow is falling. With our snowfencing in place on and near the Summit, the storm could be a nice little aid to the Upper Mountain opening.

More on Lenawee

I skied the Upper Mountain this morning.  There was a great improvement over the last 24 hours.  The snowmakers had another very successful night.  Some of it ready to open.  We are going to keep plugging away.  Lenawee Face is normally a tricky place to make snow.  It looked great today.  Our key chunk of terrain to keep making snow is Lenawee Traverse down to the bottom of Lenawee Lift.  

So....when does Lenawee Lift open?  We are definitely much closer.  It should be open by next weekend if not sooner.  I think the next 3 nights look very good for snowmaking.