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Vail, Beaver Creek snow guns are running

Locals getting excited for the coming ski season

Snow guns fire on lower Vail Mountain Wednesday in Vail. Colder temperatures have allowed the start of snowmaking.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

One of the surest signs winter is coming in Eagle County is when Vail Resorts starts the snow guns at Vail and Beaver Creek.

The snow guns are now running when conditions permit, meaning that a combination of overnight and daytime temperatures, as well as relative humidity, allow the guns to run effectively.

The sight and sound of snow guns tend to ramp up excitement for the season to come.



“Winter officially starts when the snow guns start,” said Mark Herron, the vice president of Invited Home, a luxury rental service.

Snowmaking gets businesses and residents excited for winter.



“This is why we’re here — it’s time to make snow angels,” he said.

Buzz Schleper, the owner of Buzz’s Boards in Vail Village, said the sound of snow guns is “music to my ears.”

Snow guns fire on lower Vail Mountain Wednesday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Schleper noted that Vail’s expanded snowmaking system, which opened fully in 2020, is a boon to early season skiing. That system operates in part on Vail Mountain’s higher elevations. And, Schleper noted, the covered terrain includes runs for new or less-experienced skiers and snowboarders.

EagleVail resident Laurie Mullen and her husband, Tom, are both avid skiers.

“It’s always exciting to hear the season is getting rolling,” Laurie Mullen said. The addition of natural snow over the past few days has helped fuel that excitement, she added.

“Yesterday we got the boots and helmets out,” she said. “It’s time to get the ski season going.”

American Ski Exchange manager Jackson Higgins was amid preseason inventory Wednesday. The shop roll outs its winter fare around Nov. 1, just in time for Vail Mountain’s opening slated for Nov. 12.

Higgins, who grew up skiing Vail, said he’s eager for the new season to start.

Snow guns running get Higgins excited, he said, but also a little anxious.

“It makes me think of what else I’ve got to do,” Higgins said.

This year, those thoughts often wander to whether the store will have enough staff. Last season was tough, he said, especially if someone called in sick or had to isolate for several days due to possible exposure to COVID-19.

Higgins said he’s pretty confident in his staff for the winter, but that’s not the case at other businesses.

Vail Chamber and Business Association Director Alison Wadey said while there’s plenty of early season excitement, there’s also anxiety among business owners who don’t yet have their winter staffing complete.

Still, people are eager to take those first turns.

Higgins said he’ll ride Opening Day if he has the chance.

Longtime resident Kaye Ferry, who was a ski instructor for 24 years, said she’d be happy if Vail could somehow skip fall and jump straight from summer to ski season.

Natural snow is always good, but Schleper said made snow is fine, too.

“The snowmakers who make snow for Vail really make good snow,” Schleper said, adding that he grew up skiing in Minnesota when manufactured snow was more suitable for skating than skiing.

Herron, who works with the Vail Local Marketing District and the lodging community, said people he’s spoken with are ready for the season to start.

“The snow guns sound like a cash register,” he said.

Four facts

Nov. 12: Opening Day at Vail Mountain

Nov. 24: Opening Day at Beaver Creek

Vail Mountain has 500-plus acres of snowmaking terrain.

The 421 new snow guns are fed by 19 miles of pipeline.


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