Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek get new snowmaking equipment |

Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek get new snowmaking equipment

Melanie Wong
Beaver Creek's snowmaking manager, Steve Fellman, right, and environmental manager, Fritz Bratschie, left, admire the new turbo air compressor the resort recently purchased for snowmaking Friday at Beaver Creek. The new compressor has replaced seven old compressors to produce better snow more efficiently.
Dominique Taylor | |

EAGLE COUNTY — When the snow guns start blowing this year, most skiers and riders won’t notice anything different. What they won’t realize is that the slopeside snowmaking system has gotten major upgrades that not only create better snow, but that will save massive amounts of energy.

Both resorts have installed top-of-the-line, highly efficient snowmaking compressors — the part of the machinery that pushes air through snowmaking pipes to different locations around the mountain — that the company estimates will save 3.3 million kilowatts of energy between both mountains. That’s the equivalent of the energy used to power more than 300 homes in one year.

It’s space-saving, too — the mountains each got one new compressor to replace seven compressors at Beaver Creek and eight compressors on Vail Mountain, some of which were quite dated.

“To be honest, it’s not that sexy, but it’s a newer type of technology that just operates differently. It’s like going from an old-school work car to a supercharged sports car.”
Luke Cartin
Head of Vail Resorts’ mountain environmental affairs

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Better snow

There will be some direct benefits to skiers and riders, too, said Luke Cartin, who heads up Vail Resorts’ mountain environmental affairs. The compressors are much smoother in their ramping up and turning off and will allow crews to respond faster to ideal snowmaking conditions. Plus, the compressors make for dryer snow, getting early season slopes a little closer to the powdery conditions that Mother Nature creates in Colorado.

“To be honest, it’s not that sexy, but it’s a newer type of technology that just operates differently. It’s like going from an old-school work car to a supercharged sports car,” Cartin said. “The compressors allow us to make more air. These use roughly half the power to make a little more air than before.”

Vail doesn’t plan to make snow until closer to Opening Day, but the new compressors will soon be put to work at Beaver Creek, where crews are busy preparing the Raptor race course, which will be used at this winter’s World Cup event.

Vail’s new compressor will be ready to turn on in early November for snowmaking operations across the front side of the mountain in preparation for the public on Opening Day, Nov. 22.

The next 10

The new snowmaking equipment is part of the resorts’ goal to cut 10 percent of energy use by 2020. The effort started in 2008, when the resort set out to reduce its energy use by 10 percent.

In early 2012, the company surpassed its target goal. The resort then set its next goal — the reduce energy use by another 10 percent by 2020.

Cartin said that the new compressors are part of that, and other changes in the works include gas-efficient snowmobiles and snowcats, lighting upgrades, building automation and more.

The compressor replacement was done in partnership with Holy Cross Energy with a new energy rebate program.

“The compressor replacements at Vail and Beaver Creek are a great example of how we can work together with our community partners, as well as a significant step in Vail Resorts’ new companywide energy reduction goal, ‘The Next 10,’ which aims to cut our company’s energy usage by an additional 10 percent by 2020,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Vail Mountain.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at and 970-748-2927.

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