Have you ever wondered what goes on at Powderhorn to make the place run? I know I used to think that a ski area pretty much just turned the lift on and said "Go for it!" Here's what really goes on each day...
The lifts close at 4:00 every day. At this time, ski patrol does the final load on the lift to do "sweep." Patrols spread out across the mountain and ski every run slowly, stopping at checkpoints. They are looking for anyone that may not have made it off the mountain yet.
Next the groomers come out. These guys generally work shifts of 4:00pm to midnight and midnight to 8:00am. Each groomer has his list of runs to maintain. They have great stories of things they've seen running around the mountain in the middle of the night (no sasquatch yet though). We also do snowmaking at night during the early season period. Temperatures have to be at or below about 25 degrees. Our guns blow the snow into large piles which the groomers then spread out evenly around the base area. Snow is also made to build the jumps and features in the terrain parks.
Once everything has been groomed, the guys call in the report around 4:00am to a special voicemail box. Then, either myself or our communications director pulls ourselves out of bed around 5am or 5:30am to listen to their report and put out the snow report. We update Colorado Ski Country's website, the Powderhorn site, and record the phone message that you all get to listen to. Hopefully we sound perky and fool you into thinking we've been up for hours. Usually I've been up for 5 minutes and I'm in my PJs. Then it's shower, breakfast, and off to the mountain.
Our snow removal team is sometimes the first to arrive when it has been snowing. This crew is here at the crack of dark to plow everything. Our lift crew starts to arrive around 7:00 and gets to their positions at the 3 lifts. Ski Patrol is also arriving at this time to start putting up the fences, slow signs, etc (this stuff is removed every night for the grooming). Food & Beverage is also showing up around this time to start cooking up a tasty breakfast, especially those killer cinnamon rolls.
The lift crew performs safety and service checks on all the lifts and then makes a radio call to our mountain dispatcher when each lift is ready for the public. In the meantime, ticket office has opened the windows and ski school is in their morning meeting. By 8:30 the rental shop is getting tons of skis and snowboards adjusted to each individual foot. When the clock strikes 9, we start loading and the day has begun. At 10:30 the first batch of lessons begin and instructors take their groups to the different teaching areas on the mountain.
All day long we are communicating on the radios between departments trying to make everything run smooth. At about 3:30 the terrain parks close and each feature gets maintenance and raking. When 4:00 comes around again, the lifts get "toned out." This is a tone that is broadcast to all our radios with an announcement that all lifts are officially closed. Then the whole process begins again!