Nov. 14, 2012 - Issue #891: Heap and Pebble
Opening weekend 2012
Marmot Basin records its earliest season opener
No. On opening day, my first day on the hill since February, I jump from my bed, throw the blankets to the floor and sprint to the shower.
I rush through the wash and rinse cycle, skipping the repeat—anything to skim a few seconds off my morning routine.
I throw on my thermals, dust off my snow pants and attempt to jump in with both feet. There's no time for all of that one foot at a time nonsense.
But, despite trying to cut corners to catch the first chair, I was beat by a long shot. A group of diehards were at the mountain at 6:30 am, lined up and ready to go, and behind them was a group who showed up at 8 am.
Now that's opening-day devotion!
And, boy, was it ever worth it to be on the hill at the beginning of November.
It was Marmot Basin's earliest opening ever, beating last year's record by just two days.
Gord Ruddy, a born and raised Jasperite who's been skiing Marmot for nearly 60 years, said although he wished the whole mountain was open, he was stoked to be on the hill so early in the season.
"It's totally awesome that we're up here.
"You gotta remember that it's November 9. We usually wouldn't be open until
December 9," he said, crediting Marmot's snow guns for the early opening.
The guns and snow-making crew started working on a snow base for the lower mountain in mid-October, when the ideal weather conditions and temperatures—low humidity and about -12 C—presented themselves.
Since then, all 10 guns have been running around the clock, and they'll likely continue to do so until February 2013. That will help to both top up the natural snow on the mountain and to construct the terrain park.
Marmot has been making snow since 2006, when it invested about $1.8 million in a state-of-the-art snow-making system for the lower mountain area.
"We have a great base out there and it's only going to get better and better with all the snow that we're making," said Dave Gibson, president and CEO of Marmot Basin. "It's going to be a good start. It's going to be a really good start, actually. An even better start than last year."
Last week, there was nearly double the mid-mountain snowpack that Marmot recorded on opening day in 2011. And it wasn't all man-made snow either. With a few big storms in late October, there was a good mix of both natural and man-made snow.
"Snow conditions are fantastic," said Brian Rode, vice-president of marketing and sales. "People can come up on their brand new equipment if they want to and there's no obstacles."
On Friday, the School House Triple Chair and the Eagle Express Quad Chair were running, with nine open runs.
Then on Saturday opening weekend took a turn for the worse, with mechanical issues on the Eagle Express leaving early risers waiting until the early afternoon to get up more than the School House chair.
"It was one of those things that you can't really predict," said Rode. "One of the bearings on the lift had to be replaced and you can't tell that these things need to be replaced, generally, until they do have to be replaced.
"So we had to shut it down—you can't run it like that, safety comes first."
Marmot staff then worked themselves silly to fence and groom runs on the upper mountain, so that the Canadian Rockies Express chair could open instead.
"Our intention was to have that upper area open next Friday, or maybe by Thursday, but as fate would have it, our hand was forced to speed that up."
To make up for the wait, skiers and boarders were given a deal on their lift passes for the day. Plus, in the end, they got to ski the upper mountain a week early.
"I think everybody left quite happy and now we have the Canadian Rockies Express and the Eagle Express operating," said Rode, crediting his staff for their hard work turning the day around.
By Sunday, things had calmed down and 30 runs were open. Rode said he expects that even more will open by the weekend.
For up to date snow reports, visit skimarmot.com.
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