Getting Vail ready for the season

Oct. 25, 2012

With Opening Day coming up November 16th, Vail Mountain is buzzing with activity as we put summer to bed and prepare for winter.

Vail Golden Peak snowmakingSnowmaking on Golden Peak 10/26/2012.

On mountain crews are still working with their year-round staff but over the coming weeks their overall seasonal numbers will grow twentyfold. There are currently about 21 mountain operations and 25 mountain dining workers on the mountain as well as 16 Ski Patrollers, 2 environmental staff and 2 terrain parks managers.

So what kind of work are these employees doing to get the mountain ready?

Fall trail prep

Ski Patrollers and trail crews have closed up the bike trails – removing signs and doing final trail maintenance tasks. Patrol is also in charge of replacing and reworking winter on-mountain signage. This job is especially important with the new setup at Mid-Vail. The flow of skiers will be a bit different this year and Patrol is making sure that the signs reflect those changes.

Fall mountain preparationsTrail crews have also been reseeding and laying straw over ski runs both to prepare them for smooth riding this winter and to ensure that there are nice green slopes for next summer. They prepare steeper ski runs by mowing the slopes with winch grooming cats modified with a mower. The “winch” title refers to the fact that these vehicles are attached by a cable to an anchor higher up on the run. This allows the groomer to safely maneuver steep areas that might otherwise cause the grooming cat to tip over. Mowing weeds in these areas helps snow accumulation go a lot further – a mowed run can be skied much sooner than one that is not maintained. In the winter, the winch cats are fitted with a grooming attachment and use a similar anchored technique to groom steep slopes.

While you may be too focused on winter to get excited for next summer, these crews have also been laying the groundwork for summer 2013. This includes doing site prep for the zip line foundations that will be put in next spring and summer. Haven’t heard about Vail’s zip lines? You can read more about the project here.


Installing snowmaking pipeThe sound of snowmaking guns has been buzzing through Golden Peak every cold night in October. This summer the Snowmaking Crew laid new pipes on Born Free to increase the efficiency and flow of snow systems in that area and installed 3 500 horsepower pumps to Snow Central, our snowmaking hub on mountain.

The science of snowmaking is much more complex than most people realize – just because the thermometer reads 32 degrees doesn’t mean making snow is possible. Snowmakers must consider factors like the “wet bulb temperature”, which is the actual temperature relative to humidity, or risk blasting water from the snow guns over snow already on the ground. The Ops team makes the call each day on if conditions will permit snowmaking. If the forecast looks too close to call, an overnight team is at the ready to get the guns going if temps and humidity allow.

Vail's snowmaking guns

Snowmaking on Born Free 10/26/2012


Vail Mountain Dining

Executive chefs and managers are returning to their restaurants to oversee remodeling, cleaning and updates to their facilities as well as test run their menus. Both The 10th and Mid-Vail are seeing revamped menu offerings this season and you can always expect seasonal and weekly changes to the menu at Game Creek Restaurant.

Mid-Vail got the most serious makeover with a total remodel on the top floor and a face-lift on the exterior.

Gondola Construction

Construction on the new gondola and its facilities is wrapping up – for the latest updates see the blog post devoted to all things gondola.