Typically, we can see an opening day anywhere from mid-November to the first 10 days of December. Our 75 year average opening day is right around December 2nd. Of course, we’ve had seasons where we’ve opened in early November and occasionally closer to the middle to latter part of December. We are very committed to opening as soon as we possibly can each ski season!
Summit West is usually the first base area we’re able to open due to its relatively smooth slopes (we try and get more base areas open as additional snow starts coming in). The amount of snow needed to open Summit West varies somewhat, depending on how much moisture is in the snow, but typically we’re looking at a minimum of 18" - 24” of standing snow, sometimes a little less. If the initial snow is powdery and light in moisture content, we tend to need more snow as the grooming machines will knock a lot of the air out of it. If the initial snow is dense we can often get by with a little less. This is why we like our first snows of the season to be a bit on the heavier side as they build good base. The other factor that detirmines openability of any slope is what's on the surface. If it's a mostly grassy slope with very little rocks, etc. and we've done intensive brush-cutting, then we only need enough snow base so that we're able to groom it. This is the case this season as we were able to carry out an aggressive summer slope maintenance program which included extensive brush-cutting, etc. Of course, the rockier slopes or those with large rocks, brush, small trees, etc. will require much more more snow before we feel we can create a skiing surface. Bottom line, there's really no finite number of inches of snow that detirmines what we can open, it always comes down to a final detirmination from our ski patrol and operations team using all of the above factors in the mix.
Alpental does generally need a bit more snow to open than Summit West, however, the good news is that Alpental does recieve and hold onto snow more so than any of our other base areas. The terrain at Alpental is very rugged, mostly due to its steep rocky terrain. We typically require about three to four feet of standing snow to cover up the numerous rocks, creeks, and other obstacles etc. Some windy snow storms in the mix really help move snow around all the obstacles though… Please note: the caveat to the amount of snow required to open does vary greatly, particularly when our summer hill maintenance is stepped up and we're able to accomplish more brush-cutting. This was the case this last summer and fall which has enabled us to open more on less snow. There are a few variables affecting our ability to open the mountain as we’ve listed right here but suffice it to say, we love to get Alpental open as soon as we can as a lot of us who work here are huge ‘Alpentalics’ and enjoy the challenging slopes found at Alpental as much as the next skier or snowboarder!
In case you are wondering about Summit Central, it is generally somewhere between the other two in amount of snow needed. The terrain at Summit Central is more rugged than Summit West but not as rugged as Alpental. Again, summer maintenance, brush-cutting, etc. helps immensely in regard to opening scenarios.
Usually, night skiing starts about one to two weeks after we initially open for the season. It really depends on additional snow coming in, giving us a little more comfort with coverage due to lessened visibility at night. As far as the end date, it depends a lot on freeze/thaw conditions that start occurring in spring as well as the amount of new snow that we may or may not be receiving that time of year. We generally phase out night skiing in the month of March, starting at Summit West early March, followed by Alpental mid-March, and Summit Central late March. We will post exact dates on our website once they are determined in March.
We don't have direct power at the top of Edelweiss and therefore, use a bank of batteries charged by a generator while we are in operation to power the camera, the modem, and any other electrical needs required for the patrol and lift shack. Edelweiss chair is powered only from the bottom terminal and until about 4 years ago, had absolutely no power source at the top until we installed the generator system. So the camera has no problems when we're only closed Monday as the battery backup covers that time period. Unfortunately, 48 hours is about as long as it lasts without a recharge. Therefore, in spring when we fall back to weekend operations you'll see the camera turned off on Sunday evenings as well as some nights mid-week. We originally debated whether to even install a webcam at the top because of these factors but decided ultimately people would prefer to have it this way than not at all. We hope to develop a suitable solution to the power issue soon.
Many people question why we don't just run power to the top... There are major cost and USFS issues, etc involved in that discussion and we hope that when the day comes to upgrade the chair, direct power to the top will be included.
Basically, the way this works at The Summit is we typically close Summit West around the middle of March while Summit East follows a relatively close scenario as well but usually closing later in the month. Summit East’s closure does depend somewhat on snow conditions and business levels so if we are having a really good spring, we sometimes look to give Summit East an extension. Summit Central normally stays open 7 days a week through the first week of April and then runs weekends until the middle of April. We typically run Central through mid-April and possibly longer depending upon conditions and rider interest! Alpental is normally our last area to close, we try to keep Alpental open through the first weekend of May. Again, snow conditions and depth have a substantial impact on closing date.