Friday morning, Telluride residents woke up to a fresh blanket of snow in town. Storms the previous two nights brought 8 inches of fresh powder. Winter snowfall is always welcome, but Telski didn’t wait for natural snow in its efforts in preparing for the 2019-20 ski season. On the mountain, snowmaking operations have been running for more than a month.
“We had a really good cold snap in early October. We were lucky enough to be ready for it, and it really helped us get ahead,” said Brandon Green, Telski director of snowmaking and capital.
Although the San Juan region saw unexpectedly heavy early snowfall in October, November has been warmer.
“The past week was really marginal. I can never schedule the weather, which is hard,” Green said.
With the recent storm, night temperatures dropped low enough to start snowmaking again, and the cold spell is expected to continue through the weekend, according to Green.
Weather from the west and southwest brought in the recent storms, according to the Telski Precision Weather Service report by meteorologist Russ Murley.
“Winter storm warnings remain in effect for the San Juans as a healthy shot of upper level energy shoots out of the Southwest and taps a decent flow of Pacific moisture,” Murley wrote.
After Thursday and Friday’s snow, Telluride is starting to transform into a winter wonderland again. Local Cami Chapus, an avid snowboarder, is ready for the season.
“I can’t wait to ski from the front door to Chair 8,” Chapus said.
The mountain officially opens Thursday, Thanksgiving, as Donation Day will be Wednesday. As is tradition, there will be free beer and pretzels on Upper Tomboy from 3-4 p.m. on Donation Day.
“We’re just trying to move as quickly as possible to get everything open,” Green said.
Relying on snow machines is normal early in the season, according to Telski CEO Bill Jensen.
“In our minds we work with the snowmaking strategy until Dec. 15. If we get snow, that’s a plus,” Jensen said. “The forecast for this week is really good for snowmaking.”
Night temperatures should comply with snowmaking efforts.
“A decent batch of colder air will also accompany and follow this storm with good snowmaking temps returning again,” Murley wrote.
As of press time Friday afternoon, Jensen expected to open 112 acres of skiing for Donation Day. The terrain will all be serviced from chairs 1 and 4, and the open runs include Village Bypass, Lower Boomerang, Misty Maiden and Upper Meadows.
Either by opening day or Saturday, Jensen explained Upper Boomerang and a few other ski trails may be opened, bringing the total open terrain to 150 acres.
“With a little bit of natural snow, we should be able to move to open chairs 5 and 6 by early December,” Jensen said.
To accommodate the openings, snowmaking operations include a manmade snow connector from the top of Chair 4 to the bottom of Chair 5 and one from Chair 5 to 6.
With the recent storm, the upper mountain could receive up to 18 inches of snow, according to Murley’s weather report.
The dry November did not worry Jensen. Although last season concluded with a snowpack of epic proportions, there were only 14 inches of snowfall in November 2018. On average, the mountain receives about 37 inches of snow in November.
With the latest snow and the 12-15 inches of snow that Telluride received in early November, the area’s snowfall will likely be around average this month, as the forecast calls for another 15-20 inches of snow by the end of November.
The majority of snow in the San Juans falls in January and February, with heavy storms beginning in late December. The mountain typically gets between 270-280 inches per season. Last season’s storms in late March drove up the total snowfall and preserved the area’s snowpack well into the early summer months. For Jensen, early season snowfall matters less than consistent storms throughout the season.
“Long range, we’re looking for the good weather pattern that will deliver our average snowfall,” Jensen said. “We’re looking forward to a successful ski season for both Telski and the community.”