BEAST OPS :: TERRAIN & SNOWMAKING UPDATES
Posted by Jeff Temple on January 7, 2016
Director of Mountain Operations Jeff Temple has seen every type of weather at Killington. Here's his take on the season so far.
Thoughts on the Season to Date
There has definitely been a paradigm shift in the terrain opening plan at Killington this year. Since our October opening, the El Nino impacts of above average temperatures and lack of snowfall have certainly tested our terrain planning and snowmaking capabilities.
The good news is temperatures are trending lower now, terrain expansion is moving fast and the team is excited about opening up the remainder of our mountain areas. Despite early season setbacks, we are committed to converting our snowmaking resources into the snow that all have come to expect from The Beast.
Terrain Plan Update, as of 1-7-16
The volatility of each new weather forecast requires us to tweak and adapt our plan accordingly so we get the absolute most out of our snowmaking system; the plan outlined below is different than what Mike communicated through his New Year News blog last week due to a slight warm-up in this week's forecast after that plan was laid out.
K-1, Snowshed and Ramshead base lodges are now all connected by open terrain as Snowshed trail and the Advanced Learning Area opened on Wednesday, January 6, serviced by the Snowshed Express Quad.
Here’s the current expansion plan:
- In the Canyon area, Lower East Fall, Spillway and the Cascade Runout opened today and the Canyon Quad will make its debut on Friday, January 8.
- Mouse Run Terrain Park is packed with snow and is being built for opening on Friday, January 8.
- Snowmaking continues today on Panic Button and Needle’s Eye, along with Middle and Lower High Road accessed by the Needle’s Eye Express Quad, which is set to open Friday. The Northbrook Quad will open on Saturday, January 9.
- Highline trail has dual snowmaking pipelines running, with an expected opening this week.
- Although not as cold as this past week, we will have snowmaking temperatures throughout the coming week and plan to work on Upper Vertigo to the Snowshed Crossover plus Upper and Lower Cruise Control, middle Cascade and then we will begin the migration into the Bear Mountain area.
I have been amazed at the endless amount of activity in the chat rooms, social media channels, and in our feedback loops from our passionate skiers and snowboarders relative to our terrain expansion. It is educational for me to read the hundreds of opinions, thoughts and ideas on how we should be expanding our terrain.
I do glean many pieces and parts of interesting ideas from your feedback, and when intertwined with current practices, it keeps us improving. On the other hand, some of the uninformed assumptions can provide some much needed humor (or depress me enough to want to give up depending on the day)…
With that said, we will do our best to keep you informed with the latest strategy and information so no assumptions are necessary.
In a volatile weather season such as we are having, our mountain team has excelled at terrain and production planning, and implementation. From opening day, we’ve been running at full capacity every time the temperatures have allowed. Our snowmaking system has set records this season for number of snow guns operated as well as the amount of times we readied the system for the few hours of production we might have gotten on so many warmer than average nights. Most of our snowmaking horsepower in November and December went into resurfacing and rebuilding trails to sustain them.
Acres vs. Miles
I wonder, especially in a season like this, where all the reporting of miles has gone from ski reports. Acreage reporting is big at western resorts due to the wide open areas, but it has migrated east and is now used exclusively by a number of eastern resorts. It seems some resorts with wider than average trails claim the acreage of the full trail during the early season, while in reality the trail has snow made on half the width or less. The Beast reports both acres and miles and adjusts wider trail acreage if in fact we have not covered the trail wall to wall. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for skiable distance (miles not acres).
I consistently get asked why we aren’t making snow on more green circle trails or more black diamond trails. Simply put, our terrain opening strategy is to provide open trails for all ability levels. The controlling driver is obviously the weather, and it is playing a more significant role this season due to its swings. More specifically, the temperature, humidity and winds across the various elevations dictate where and when we can produce snow. The team works hard to balance where we want to make snow versus where we can make snow.
Bring on the Snowguns
In the snowmaking business, your “manufacturing plant” has a set amount of air and water it can produce at any given time based on temperature. If temperatures are higher than the mid-teens, we are on the “air side of the curve,” meaning plenty of water and a large air producing plant coupled with low energy snow guns allows us to operate a maximum number of snowguns, over 200 at once. As temperatures drop below mid-teens, we go to the “water side of the curve,” and crews can send more water to each snowgun allowing each gun to produce a lot more snow, reducing number of guns needed but maintaining quality snow consistency.
The temperatures following this weekend look really good again for snowmaking; as we march into the Bear Mountain area this coming week we will continue to infill and open terrain in all our mountain areas as conditions improve.
Keep the questions coming and I’ll see you out on the mountain.