TELLURIDE – After laying 16,000 ft. of steel pipe last summer and an additional 22,000 ft. of pipe being installed this summer, the Telluride Ski Resort’s once antiquated snowmaking capabilities are becoming vastly more efficient and will now bring better snow conditions to more places on the mountain in a shorter period of time.
Simply put, the new system will enable snowmaking crews to use the same amount of water as in the past, but in a more powerful way, meaning more runs will be open earlier in the season. And all this will be accomplished, using less energy.
The infrastructure upgrade is big and expensive (close to $3 million over the last two years), but Telluride Ski and Golf Co. officials say it will properly lay the groundwork for future snowmaking expansions on the Town of Telluride side of the resort.
“Once this is built and built right, we are setting ourselves up for success,” Jeff Proteau, Telski Vice President of mountain operations and planning, said last week.
Telski’s Manager of Snowmaking Brandon Green, the designer of the ski area’s multi-year infrastructure upgrade project, works closely with the renowned snowmaking engineer firm, Torrent Engineering and Equipment. Last summer, crews replaced 16,000 ft. of steel pipe around the Lift 4 area. The old antiquated pipe often froze, and caused major snowmaking delays while crews were called to fix the breakage. That old system also contained dead ends and one-way legs that held back snowmaking crews back. If there was a frozen pipe or a burst pipe, the entire system had to be shut down until it was fixed.
The new pipe system laid last summer was designed with a loop and various shut-off valves, so if a pipe does freeze, the entire system won’t have to be shut down.
The new infrastructure also has the ability to bring water at a higher pressure, up to 800 p.s.i, which is needed for 60 new low energy Snow Logic snowmaking guns. These new guns, along with the higher pressure, make it possible to begin snowmaking at a higher temperature (anywhere below 26 degrees Fahrenheit) than the previous system.
The improvements made to the snowmaking system had a big impact on the ski area’s snowmaking ability last year, at the same time dramatically reducing its energy consumption.
“We basically finished making snow on Dec. 23,” Green said, adding that many longtime snowmaking employees in Telluride hadn’t had Christmas off in years. “This year they had Christmas off. It was a huge change.”
Green also said the improvements saved the ski area energy costs by about 30 percent.
“It’s all about reducing our carbon footprint and snowmaking is the place to do it,” Proteau said. “There are so many things you can do to improve snowmaking and, so far, we are really proud of what we’ve done.”
Telski didn’t stop there. This summer, even more improvements are taking place. Currently, there are seven track-hoes, three dozers and approximately 30 workers excavating, welding and installing 22,000 ft. of steel pipe from the top of Lift 4, down Boomerang, to the bottom of Lift 5. It is in this trench that three new steel pipes are being installed. One will carry pressured water for snowmaking. One will carry high-pressure air to operate about 38 new Snow Logic snowmaking guns this winter. A third pipe will be used to fill either one of Telski’s two water reservoirs near the top of Lift 4.
The snowmaking system it replaces used one pipe for both snowmaking and reservoir-filling needs, which slowed down snowmaking efforts.
The new line will carry 38 new Snow Logic guns along the route, a major boost from the previous 12 old guns that were operated along this line. With the energy efficient Snow Logic Guns in place and the ability to move water where it’s needed while snowmaking is in progress, the new system will, Green says, allow his crew to be more selective about when and where snow is made.
“We’ll have 38 new snowmaking locations instead of 12,” Green says. “This is really going to speed up our process.”
The new pump line is dedicated to keeping reservoirs full and, upon completion of future upgrades at the the base of the gondola, will enable crews to fill those reservoirs with San Miguel River water. Upgrades also include a new gravity feed line down to the Meadows, Double Cabins and the Peaks where snowmaking capabilities will be increased.
Each winter season, Telski uses between 90 million and 110 million gallons of water for snowmaking purposes; the new snowmaking infrastructure will consume no more water.
“We won’t need more water, but we will have the ability to move more water more efficiently,” Proteau explains. “In the past, we had to make snow whenever we could. Now Brandon can be more selective about where the water needs to be. As soon as the temperatures get right, he can light the place up with snow.”
Proteau says it has been and will always be the ski resort’s policy to open easy runs into the Mountain Village base area first, because skiers and riders of all abilities can use them. But as soon as they are open, they will move the snowmaking to the front side of the resort to give skiers and riders access to Telluride as well. All of this new snowmaking infrastructure will help ensure the front side gets access sooner than it has in the past. In addition, the new work between Lift 4 and 5 will enable crews to open connector runs more quickly, which means upper portions of the mountain can be opened more quickly.
And what about upgrading the front side’s snowmaking infrastructure? That leg of the big picture project is still in the works but both Green and Proteau said the current projects need to be completed first.
Both Proteau and Green gave a lot of credit to Telluride Ski Resort owner Chuck Horning for his willingness and vision to move the ski area forward with the needed infrastructure upgrades.
“It’s been great to have an owner like Chuck who listens to us on what needs to be done to improve the ski area,” Green says. “This is a fun project to conceptualize, see it through and then finally turn it on.”
This summer’s installation is expected to be completed by Aug. 20.