Vail Mountain snowmaking expansion plan would increase capacity by 52 percent
VAIL — Vail Mountain has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service to improve its existing snowmaking system and expand snowmaking on the upper-mountain. The proposal aligns with the resort’s Master Development Plan, which was accepted by the Forest Service in July.
The plan would allow the resort to offer more reliable Opening Day conditions, even in warmer years like the past two seasons. All plans are subject to U.S. Forest Service approval. The U.S. Forest Service is expected to outline its review process, including a public comment period, sometime this fall.
“The ability to expand our snowmaking infrastructure in areas on the mountain with higher elevations, colder temperatures, northern aspect and excellent connectivity to areas that typically hold good natural snow would be transformational for the resort and our guests,” said Greg Johnson, vice president of mountain operations for Vail.
“For early-season operations, our strategy would be to begin by making snow in the Mid-Vail area in order to open the Mountain Top Express Lift (No. 4), followed by the Avanti Express Lift (No. 2) for access out of and back to both Lionshead Village and Vail Village. This means a significant portion of the front-side beginner and intermediate terrain could be open earlier, enhancing both the guest experience and the early-season resort economy in both villages.”
Modernizing the majority of Vail’s current snowmaking system would deliver state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technology that is fundamental to a more predictable opening date, high-quality conditions during the early- and mid-season and more reliable conditions through mid-April, Johnson said.
Some of the key areas of focus and proposed snowmaking coverage areas would include Swingsville Ridge, Swingsville, Ramshorn, The Meadows and Over Easy in the Mid-Vail area; Lodgepole, Ledges and Avanti in the area of the Avanti Express Lift (No. 2); Eagles Nest Ridge, as well as upper Lost Boy, upper Born Free and Timberline Face; plus Flap Jack, Riva Ridge and lower Highline.
All snowmaking infrastructure would be installed on existing trails, and no tree clearing would be necessary.
The resort’s system currently has the capacity to make snow on 452 acres, or 15 percent of total developed skiable terrain, and the proposal would increase that capacity to 686 acres, a 52 percent increase in the resort’s current snowmaking terrain. More than 20 miles of new or retrofitted existing snowmaking pipes would be installed during a multi-year rollout.
The proposed deal would be a three-way agreement between the town, the developer and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.