Snowmaking starts at Loveland |

Snowmaking starts at Loveland

Bob Berwyn

Anyone tired of watching the sky and waiting for the first fat flakes to fall can tune into Loveland’s Website ( and watch while workers fire up snow guns at the area to create a man-made blizzard.Officials at ski area just east of the Continental Divide announced that they began snowmaking operations late in evening of Sept. 20, when temperatures dipped into the 20-degree range. Loveland has long been among an elite group of Colorado ski areas battling for the bragging rights that come with being the first to open, and marketing director Kevin Wright said this year will be no different. Copper Mountain has also started to make snow, and a few piles of white are visible from I-70.This year, Arapahoe Basin may also join the race, having completed installation of a top-to-bottom snowmaking system. Look for first turns sometime around mid-October if normal conditions prevail!Canadian ski areas report big numbersMore than 18.8 million skier and snowboarder visits were tallied at Canadian ski resorts last winter, equaling the record set the previous winter, according to figures released by the Canadian Ski Council and reported by the Web-based e-zine First Tracks Online.A snowy winter helped resorts in the eastern part of the country mark the biggest increase. Quebec ski areas reported more than 6.9 million visits, up 13 percent from the previous season. Visits at Ontario resorts jumped 7 percent, from 3 to 3.2 million, while resorts in B.C. and Alberta recorded 5.5 and 2.4 million visits respectively, despite sub-par snowfall.End of the line for Scottish skiing?The Glasgow Daily Telegraph reports that a steady decline in the snow cover in Scotland’s mountains means that the ski industry could be facing its demise in about 20 years, according to a Scottish ecologist who has been measuring snow levels in the Cairngorms for 20 years has documented his findings in a report.According to the Daily Telegraph, the researcher, Adam Watson, reported that, in 1974, he was able to choose from thousands of snow patches. This year, he found only 31 snowfields and they all melted by the end of August for the first time since 1860.The Daily Telegraph reports that Scottish resorts have already started making adjustments by offering a wider range of seasonal activities, including mountain biking and paragliding. Watson’s studies also noted declining skier numbers, Scottish resorts registered a record 664,000 visits in the winter of 1987-88, but the total fell to 186,200 last winter.Grand County eyes pine beetle treatmentsThe U.S. Forest Service is taking comments on a plan to moderate mountain pine beetle infestations, reduce fuels buildup, and create a healthier and more scenic forest in the Arapaho National Recreation Area (ANRA) and surrounding lands.According the Grand County Friday Daily Tribune, there has been a dramatic increase in mountain pine beetle activity in recent years, resulting in a significant increase in the risk of wildfire on private and public lands.Under the preferred alternative in the draft plan, the Forest Service would use insecticides to limit mountain pine beetle activities in high value areas and developed recreation sites, and use a variety of forest management treatments to reduce the fire hazard in the wildland-urban interface.Teton ski pioneer gets Hall of Fame callNoted Jackson Hole ski mountaineer Bill Briggs has been inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in Park City, Utah, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports.Briggs, first to ski the Grand Teton in 1971, shared the honor with fellow ski legend Stein Eriksen and Axel Andresen, a ski jumper from the early 20th century who was inducted posthumously. Briggs, 71, was referred to as the &quotfather of extreme skiing&quot in his introduction, the News and Guide reports, adding that Briggs &quotrolls his eyes at the phrase.&quotGuidebook author Tom Turiano describes Briggs as the father of ski mountaineering in the Tetons, ascribing to him a number of notable first descents, including the Middle and South Tetons in 1967, Mount Moran in 1988 and Mount Owen in 1974.Far from resting on his laurels, Briggs continues to set new goals related to his ski teaching activities at Snow King. At the top of his list is perfecting instruction for small children, the News and Guide reports.Public split on Silverton ski proposalThe comments are in on Aaron Brill’s long-term proposal for lift-accessed backcountry skiing at Silverton, and the Durango Herald reports that sentiment is divided. Backers claim that Brill’s plan could boost Silverton’s winter economy, while critics claim his operation is too risky because of the high avalanche hazard in the San Juans.Bureau of Land Management officials are expected to decide by December if Brill can begin operating under a 40-year permit, ferrying up to 475 skiers and snowboarder per day to the enticing chutes and bowls that surround his operation. Brill runs his ski lift on private land but wants a permit from the BLM to make more terrain available to both guided and unguided skiers and riders.Many local business owners support the operation, but some critics, identifying themselves as avalanche experts, say the operation is too risky, according to the Herald.Aspen retail sales upThe Aspen Times reports that retail sales in Aspen climbed 5 percent in August, reaching last year’s levels. According to the Times, Aspen-area businesses reported gains for the main summer months of June through August, helping to make up ground that was lost earlier in the year.Almost all sectors reported gains during the period, including 6.5 percent for restaurants and bars, 28 percent for clothing and 9.7 percent for sporting goods and related clothing. Tourist accommodations climbed only .8 percent, while liquor store receipts dropped 12 percent.Crested Butte gets new flightsSkier days at Crested Butte have dropped sharply in the past 10 years, but resort officials are hopeful that new air service to the region will bolster visitation, the Crested Butte News reports.According to the News, two airlines will add flights to Gunnison County airport in December, raising the total number of available airline seats by 20 percent. The flights will carry up to 457 passengers weekly, and the airlines will be offered financial guarantees from a tourism tax.Skier visits have dropped by an alarming 38 percent since the 1997-98 season, when Crested Butte tallied almost 550,000 visits. The ski resort is for sale and local officials hope a new deep-pocketed owner will help reverse those declining fortunes by expanding the ski mountain and funding improvements like a convention center, according to the News.– compiled by Bob Berwyn

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