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 happens on a typical day...
The lifts close at 4pm every day. At this time, ski patrol does the final load on the lift for 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 4pm to midnight and midnight to 8am. Each groomer has his list of runs to maintain that has been selected by Ski Patrol and Slope Maintenance. Groomers have great stories of things they've seen running around the mountain in the middle of the night (no sasquatch yet though). We also make snow during the night in the early season period.
Once everything has been groomed, the guys call in the report by 5am to a special voicemail box. Then, either myself or another snow reporter pulls ourselves out of bed around 5 or 5:30am to get their report and publish the snow report. Hopefully we sound perky and fool you into thinking we've been up for hours. Usually I've been up for 3 minutes and I'm in my PJs.
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 operations crew arrives at 7am 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.
Lift Operations crews perform safety and service checks on all lifts and then makes a radio call to our mountain dispatcher when each lift is ready for the public. The terrain park crew prepares and opens each park. 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 10:30am the first batch of lessons begin and instructors take their groups to the different teaching areas on the mountain.
All day long we're 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 4pm 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!