VAIL, Colorado - The snow guns at Vail Mountain's Golden Peak fired up Saturday morning for the first time this season, creating excitement on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter over the upcoming winter season.
Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot posted this Twitter message, along with a photo of Golden Peak, around 10 a.m.: "Little snowmaking going on this mornin at Golden Peak. As Mr. Fillion says, 'Let the games begin!'"
The Vail Mountain Facebook page posted the same photo of Golden Peak with the caption, "Golden Peak is getting ready. Are you?"
Within three hours, nearly 2,300 people had "liked" the photo and more than 100 had commented.
"Skis are waxed, edges sharpened, bindings tuned, and the treadmill is running overtime; am I ready? :)," wrote Paul Nguyen.
The Golden Peak snowmaking fires up ahead of the rest of Vail's snowmaking because Golden Peak is training ground for the U.S. Ski Team, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, as well as ski teams and clubs from around the world. Depending on when the Golden Peak slopes are ready, that's when the teams start training. It typically happens around the last week of October or first week of November.
The guns were fired up just after 2 a.m. Saturday morning, Vail Mountain spokeswoman Liz Biebl said. They were able to run the guns on the entire Golden Peak race course top to bottom for about 12 hours with temperatures in the low 20s, Biebl said.
Jarnot said the snowmaking crew had the automated Golden Peak snowmaking system "prepped and ready to go, just waiting for the right temperatures to turn it on," in an email to the Vail Daily Saturday.
"The temperature dropped this morning and we fired it up," Jarnot said. "It may not make a big difference or even stick around at this point, but it's helpful to get everything going and any bugs identified, plus it's exciting to get going."
In Vail's photo of Golden Peak, one of the tower foundations for the new gondola can be seen. Vail Mountain responded to questions about the gondola on Facebook by saying it's still on schedule to open by Nov. 16, Vail's opening day for the 2012-13 season.
The weather forecast next week shows highs near 60 degrees in Vail. Meteorologist and powder forecaster Joel Gratz, who runs www.opensnow.com, said a storm is likely to move into the area around Wednesday that could produce rain and snow in the area.
In the meantime, the snowmaking at Golden Peak will have to be enough of a teaser for winter for local snow sports enthusiasts. Even the sight of the snow guns blasting seemed to be enough to prove winter is near.
"Wish there was a really, really, really like button," wrote Andy Vierhile on Vail Mountain's snowmaking status update.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.