Preparing the slopes at Solitude begins months before we open. Once temperatures and humidity drop, our snowmaking team can begin making snow. On-hill snowcats move piles of snow around the mountain and groom it into the perfect surface for skiing and snowboarding.  

This week, Solitude President & COO Amber Broadaway speaks with Bryan Hansen and Dylan Goar of Solitude’s slope maintenance team. A lot of expertise and hard work goes into maintaining the trails we love to ski in winter. Throughout summer and early fall, the team mows the trails and cuts brush around the resort. The lower the grass and brush stand, the smaller the snow depth we will need in order to open. 

Low temperatures are required for snowmaking, but low humidity is even more important. Clear, starry nights are ideal conditions for getting the most out of our snowmaking system. When those conditions are right, Bryan calculates the amount of water the system can transform into snow in a given 24-hour period, then calls for that water to be released from a reservoir. If we don’t use it, we lose it. 

An elaborate network of power and water lines crisscrosses Solitude’s lower mountain to support snowmaking. Snow guns are moved into place using on-hill snowcats and connected to that grid by hand. 

The guns are stationary while operating, so they naturally blow snow into large piles, or “whales.” A snow whale may be allowed to rest and cure for up to one week before the snow is moved into place for our guests. On-hill snowcats are used to move snow up to 1,000 feet and groom it into a perfect surface for skiing and snowboarding. 

As you can see, decades of knowledge and months of preparation go into opening our slopes. Once the conditions are right, we are ready to go. Of course, we prefer it when Mother Nature gives us a helping hand. But just in case, we have the experts and infrastructure to hit the slopes as soon as possible after temperatures drop. Many thanks to our slope maintenance team for their hard work and focus on bringing us another amazing winter season at Solitude!