Snowmaking 2020: Phase One

Guns were on full blast under a bright blue sky

Snowmaking has kicked off for the 2020/2021 winter season. The snow guns went on for the first night on Monday, November 16, and stayed firing through the morning of Thursday, November 19. Through this cold snap, we saw a high of 245 snow guns on for 60+ hours. Paired with low temperatures, this generated great production for our first round of snowmaking.

What Trails Can We Expect For Opening Day?

The Snow Bowl enjoying some afternoon shade

Our snowmakers are making snow on 14 trails, primarily in the Snow Bowl. Stratton’s Snow Bowl is the upper west side of the mountain and consists of the last trails on the mountain to see the sun each day. This becomes beneficial during early season snowmaking, as all that shade helps to protect the snowpack to build a deep base.

The Snow Bowl mainly sits above mid-mountain, where the elevation increase also brings about a decrease in temperatures. The summit of the mountain can range upwards of 20 degrees colder than the base area, especially with wind chill.

Mike’s Way, an easy cruise and better views

Choose Your Own Trail

The Snow Bowl is home to Stratton’s newest chairlift. This high-speed four-pack lift that moves quick and services a variety of terrain for all abilities. For those new to riding or searching for views, there is Mike’s Way. An easy to cruise, scenic top to bottom green circle that everyone enjoys. Beginner skiing and snowboarding off the summit is a unique experience for most new to the sport and is an aspect that makes Stratton truly unique. Enjoy coasting on Mike’s Way around the western edge of the mountain and back down to the Snow Bowl chair, or main base area.

Just a few trails over is home to Upper Spruce, a twisting multi-pitch double black diamond that’ll test every rider’s edges from contact point to contact point. And don’t forget about East and West Meadows. Two sunny wide green circle trails allowing for the ultimate cruise back down to the Snow Bowl Express.

Frank’s looking good in white
A whale sighting with Polar Bear snowmaking in the back

Frank’s Fall Line saw lots of snow production over this stretch. Frank’s cuts down the middle of the mountain for a run filled with high-speed carves that end right at the mid-mountain lodge. If you’re not ready to stop at mid-mountain, take a right at the bottom of Frank’s and run into Grizzly Access, a short traverse connecting trails to the Ursa Chairlift. Off of Ursa, snow has been laid down on Polar Bear, technical double black diamond putting most skiers and riders to the test, a real early-season treat for those looking to get their legs back to midseason form.

Grizzly Access stacking up
Another shot of the high output on Grizzly Access

Weather Is Everything

Snowmaking in its simplest form is turning water into snow. The most obvious necessity in this process is a cold ambient (air) temperature. However, even if it’s below 32 degrees outside, humidity plays a key roll. The combination of temperature and humidity gives you the wet bulb, which determines snow quality and energy efficiency. The lower the humidity, the lower the wet bulb temperature.

The snow guns must go on and off in strategic windows to maximize production, and limit melt and wind carry. Cold temperatures, low humidity and little to no wind are the key factors when it comes to snow production. As we wait patiently for our next window of snowmaking conditions, we can wax up our skis, tighten down our bindings, double-check all our zippers and dream about ripping into some fresh corduroy. Let’s Winter.

Phase One Trails

Trails: Mike’s Way. Upper Drifter, Lower Drifter. Upper Spruce, Lower Spruce. Frank’s Fall Line. Upper Slalom Glade. Top of Black Bear. Polar Bear. Overpass. Betwixt. Janeway Junction. Yodeler.

First Round of snowmkaing is seen in red
Getting very close to those cabins and shadows moving
A pod of whales in their natural habitat
Some great looking trees captured with our trusted GoPro
Some great looking trees captured with our trusted GoPro