By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — WILMINGTON — The nor’easter storming the East Coast won’t deliver much snow here.
But, since Monday, snow guns at Whiteface Ski Resort have been blowing around the clock.
Asked how the mountain looked Wednesday morning, Whiteface General Manager Aaron Kellett chuckled.
“It’s white,” he said.
Snowmakers were scheduled to start their work next week but began early, taking advantage of cold air that dropped to 11 degrees Monday.
Adjusting for the weather gives the resort not only a jump on snow, Kellett said, but also spares cost.
“That is a ski resort’s No. 1 expense. Last year, we had some warmer temperatures, but we took advantage of the cold days and good situations. By playing our cards right with the weather, it saves us money.”
The mountain has made a steady march toward both adding terrain and cutting costs.
In 2006, Whiteface installed energy-efficient compressors that have saved money in snowmaking operations.
And since then, the Ski Resort has steadily added new technology and state-of-the-art guns that allow minute adjustments to water concentration, making optimum snow for skiing.
That work began Monday.
“Our guys are really excited,” Kellett said. “They play a lot of different roles on the mountain in the off season with work on trails and on the Memorial Highway. When we made the call on Monday, our guys got really excited. At about 5 p.m., we got the guns fired up. A couple of the snowmakers have been staying all night.”
PACKING LOWER TRAILS
The goal is to pile snow on the lower mountain, establishing a good stash that can be used to open the lower trails.
“Hopefully, this week will take care of snowmaking on the lower mountain, so we can concentrate on the upper mountain when we get into full-blown snowmaking,” Kellett said.
The newest snow guns are equipped with weather stations.
“They will actually adjust the amount of water based on air temperatures, so the gun will, every one second, adjust to make the best snow. It’s something a human couldn’t do. But we will always rely on people,” Kellett said.
“Whiteface is pretty unique. You have wind. And those snow guns don’t monitor wind, so you can never take the experienced human factor totally out of it.”
The resort finally was able to spend $500,000, budgeted three years ago, to add snowmaking infrastructure on Hoyt’s High, one of the uppermost, black-diamond trails.
It was a strategic move to connect the Lookout Mountain ski lift to inner terrain, moving skiers around more of the mountain.
In mid August, now-retired General Manager Bruce McCulley explained the importance of adding snowmaking to the connector trail.
“Hoyt’s is a classic expert trail with lots of twists and turns and a relatively narrow width,” he said in announcing the expansion.
“It has a lot of character since we essentially used the outline of the old Cloudsplitter trail ... cut in the early ’50s as a test trail on the southeast side of the mountain. When the ski center was moved to its current location, (Hoyt’s High) was allowed to re-vegetate until 2007, when we re-cut the trail. It is over 4,700 feet long and has a vertical drop of around 1,500 feet.”
Hoyt’s changes the traffic flow on the entire mountain, McCulley explained.
“We also may cut an access trail into Porcupine Lodge at the top of the Lookout lift. This would be in preparation for the opening of the building as a warming hut and lunch area. At this time, it does not appear that we will have approvals for public use of Porcupine Lodge this year.”
Already, ski tracks have been carved down Veterans Memorial Highway by hearty skiers who climbed up in recent days.
And Kellett expects climbers to seek first runs on some lower terrain this weekend.
So far, Whiteface has no plan yet to open the lifts earlier than the scheduled date on Nov. 23.
“You never know,” Kellett said.
“Everybody’s working hard. We’re looking forward to another great year at Whiteface.”
Email Kim Smith Dedam: email@example.com