BIG SKY – Big Sky Resort is getting what it needed to prepare for opening day on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22: snow. And lots of it.
When a massive storm hit southwest Montana last night and today, the resort was ready, sending snow cats around the mountain, packing this first layer down to provide a base for the rest of the season.
More than a foot of snow has fallen already, with 18 inches in the Bowl, and the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning yesterday that extends through late Saturday morning. Storm totals are forecast to drop another foot of dry, cold snow by morning.
Accompanying this storm are plummeting temperatures, which will let the resort take over snowmaking duties from Mother Nature. NWS calls for a high of 10 degrees on Saturday, dropping to minus 3 at night.
“These are perfect conditions [to make snow],” said Jake Porter, Big Sky’s snowmaking and grooming manager. Temperatures between 10 and minus 20 degrees are ideal, he said.
The resort is shaped so that much of the spring snowmelt returns to Lake Levinsky, at the base of the mountain. Each winter, Big Sky then pumps water from the lake for its snowmaking operation.
“We use almost 80 percent recycled water,” said Porter, who has a 24-person crew in the snowmaking department. Right now, it’s all hands on deck.
“It’s getting close to crunch time,” he said of the resort’s projected Thanksgiving Day opening.
According to Chad Jones, public relations manager for Big Sky Resort, it’s hard to predict what terrain the mountain will be able to open at this stage. Safety is the primary concern.
“Trust me,” Jones said, “we want things open as quickly as possible. But we’ll open when it’s safe to do so. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
With winter starting to shape up, Jones says Big Sky Resort is ready.
Over the hill at Moonlight Basin, operations are also gearing up for the coming ski season.
Moonlight, which plans to open Dec. 8, received 18 inches at mid-mountain, according to John Knapton, the resort’s director of mountain operations.
It snowed most of the day as temperatures tumbled. But folks at Moonlight love it.
“Our snow-guns are pumping out the snow as temps drop into the teens & single digits today,” Knapton wrote in Moonlight’s snow report.
“Winter is back with a BANG!”
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