Crews working 24/7 for Vail’s opening |

Crews working 24/7 for Vail’s opening

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Snow Moving DT 11-11-11

VAIL, Colorado – With just days before Vail Mountain opens for the 2011-12 ski season, mountain operations crews are working around the clock to get the snow ready for action.

There’s a lot more work that goes into opening a ski resort than some may think. While natural snow has helped Vail Mountain over the past couple of weeks, that snow has to be tended to in order to make conditions right for Opening Day.

Thankfully for the operations crews, early-season conditions this year have been phenomenal.

“The temperatures have been just unbelievably favorable for making some snow,” Vail Ski Patrol Director Julie Rust said. “We don’t know (exactly) what we’ll have available to open, but boy, we’re going gangbusters.”

Rust’s crew has been in training leading up to Opening Day. They’re doing everything from medical training to lift evacuation to guest-services training, she said.

They’ll start deciding where to put up closures soon and will make sure preparations in all areas of the mountain are complete.

“You can’t just pop the place open because it looks good,” Rust said. “There’s coordination between so many departments and preparations in all sorts of areas.”

Paul Fillion, senior director of mountain operations, said there have been close to 100 snow guns running at a time in the past few days. The guns are working to cover the Born Free run, as well as the egress routes, or cat tracks, off the hill.

“We’re really trying to connect all the dots,” Fillion said.

And depending on the temperatures this week and the production capabilities of the guns, more terrain could be added.

The total system is making snow with thousands of gallons of water per minute, he said.

The guns are working around the clock, as are the mountain’s 40 snowmakers on staff.

Fillion said this year’s opening will be one of the better openings for Born Free because snowmaking has been so good.

“The base will be anywhere from a foot to 18 inches,” he said. “It’s going to look good.”

Cat crews are just as busy because they’re pushing around all that snow, both manmade and natural, to get it ready for future snowstorms and for skiers. Cat crews have been “track packing” the whole front side of Vail Mountain, meaning they’re stabilizing that snow into a base for when more snow falls on top of it.

Rust said all of the collaboration among the teams is truly critical to ensuring a smooth opening.

“This is a really exciting time of year for us,” Rust said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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