Season opener

Season opener

With temperatures dipping below 90 degrees, you know what that means: it’s time to start dreaming about ski season. And Purgatory Resort has added fuel to the fire by announcing its opening day: Nov. 19. 

“In a perfect world, mid-October is when we reach the prime temperature to start making snow,” Theresa Blake Graven, spokeswoman for Purgatory, said. “If that all works out, we should be ready to open by Nov. 19. But again, that’s TBD, depending on Mother Nature.” 

Indeed, Mother Nature may have something to say as Southwest Colorado is expected to enter its third La Niña winter in a row, which typically brings drier, hotter-than-normal conditions.

 Matthew Rosencrans, with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the La Niña pattern was responsible for the strong monsoon season this summer. However, when the monsoons shut off in September, so, too, does the precipitation. 

Forecasting models show September to November drier, as well as warmer, than normal. Not a great combo for making snow, but also not that out of the ordinary (October/November are usually dry months). 

Purgatory’s Graven said with the snowmaking improvements made this past year, resort officials are hopeful the schedule will go as planned. The resort recently completed an expansive $1.25 million upgrade to its snowmaking system, making it more reliable and efficient, consuming less energy and utilizing every snowmaking temperature window. 

The resort also rebuilt nine water pumps; replaced five outdated air compressors; and added a new, computerized snowmaking control room.

 “We expect these improvements to increase snow production by 25% or more,” Josh Hamill, slope maintenance manager, said. “This not only improves the early-season experience but also shortens the time it takes to cover our snowmaking trails with high-quality snow, allowing us to open terrain faster.”

Also of note, the expanded snowmaking coverage includes Lower Paradise to the midway loading of Needles (Lift 6), opening more high-elevation, early-season terrain if temperatures do not allow for top-to-bottom skiing. 

And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention parking. Purgatory said it has increased parking capacity, with 50 new spaces in the Lower Columbine lot and, pending permit approval, another 125-150 spaces in the Gelande lot. To encourage carpooling, the Main Village parking lot will be free on weekends and holidays for vehicles carrying four or more people.

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