Vail Resorts’ plan to expand Vail Mountain snowmaking draws good response
• 452 acres: Current snowmaking capacity on Vail Mountain.
• 686 acres: Proposed expansion.
• Current plans call for expanding snowmaking on beginner and intermediate terrain.
• The plan is subject to approval by the U.S. Forest Service.
Source: Vail Resorts
VAIL — After sub-par early snow the past two seasons, a Vail Resorts plan to expand snowmaking on Vail Mountain is drawing mostly positive reviews from local business owners.
Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Boards in Vail Village, said the plan, which would expand snowmaking on the mountain, would add much-needed beginner and intermediate terrain in the early season.
“It’s a better variety of runs for different (skill) levels,” Schleper said. Getting snowmaking at Mid-Vail opens better terrain for beginners, Schleper said.
Expanding snowmaking will “make it so people aren’t so disappointed … with the one run that’s open” in the early season, Schleper said.
At Vail Resort Rentals, owner Dale Bugby said the announcement of expanded snowmaking is overdue.
Early snowmaking on those critical runs to get from lift to lift has been “badly needed,” Bugby said, adding that more early-season snowmaking will “almost guarantee” skiable terrain for those booking lodging for Thanksgiving and the rest of the early season.
Bugby said having more of the mountain open early presents a better opportunity to attract guests.
“We’ve struggled to book people in advance when we don’t have snowmaking,” he said.
Another longtime resident, Realtor Craig Denton said he’s long believed Vail Mountain’s snowmaking machinery should be near the top of the mountain.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” Denton said. “Last year, there should have been man-made snow on top.”
Denton said in his view, not many people ski the front side of Vail Mountain once they’re at the top. Better conditions at both Mid-Vail and Eagles Nest would give people a chance to ski at high elevation and then ride down on the gondolas that serve those on-mountain facilities.
But not this year …
But the additional snowmaking won’t come this year. In fact, it could take some time.
According to Sally Gunter, Vail Resorts senior manager for communications at Vail and Beaver Creek, the plan’s timetable depends on when the U.S. Forest Service approves it. Once that happens, “the new or retrofitted snowmaking pipes would be installed during a multiyear roll-out,” Gunter wrote in an email.
But after the last couple of years, helping nature in the season’s first weeks has taken on new importance.
Schleper, a Vail Valley resident since 1972, said early snow usually would come, even at the last minute.
“We’d count on the (natural) snow to open a good portion of the front side” of Vail Mountain, he said.
Years ago, Schleper said employees at his shop would be worried when snow wasn’t coming in November.
“It always showed up,” he said. That hasn’t happened recently.
While news of expanded snowmaking atop Vail Mountain was well-received by most of the people contacted for this story, Claggett-Rey Gallery owner Bill Rey took a different view.
“I see it as a double-edged sword,” Rey said. While acknowledging that snowmaking will help lay down a better early-season base, “My concern is that we really need Mother Nature.”
Rey noted Vail’s efforts to become a more sustainable community and wondered if those goals mesh with adding more snowmaking to the mountain.
Snowmaking “uses tons of water,” he said.
Gunter noted that Vail Resorts hasn’t used all the water it’s allowed to for snowmaking. The proposed expansion isn’t expected to exceed the company’s water rights, she wrote.
“Our current snowmaking does not use all of the water we have, even in a very dry year,” she wrote.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2930.