This definitive answer comes after rumors of a delayed opening for the ski area circulated throughout Telluride last week. The lack of significant November snowfall has kept eager skiers and riders grounded and dissipated hopes for an opening as stellar as last year - November 2004 was one of the snowiest Novembers recorded in ski area history.
Despite quelling false reports about a delayed opening for 2005, Kirwan admits that the ski resort is, ultimately, still at the mercy of Mother Nature. "We'll be ready to go, come opening day, but it obviously depends on the snow."
The base at the top of Lift 6 was measured at 22 inches this week; typically, the upper portions of the ski area need at least a 35-inch base to be viable for skier traffic. Although the dearth of natural snow may mean that the upper lifts will remain closed until after a few more storms, recent cold temperatures have enabled the Telluride Ski Resort's snowmaking department to move forward with snowmaking operations at lower elevations on the Mountain Village side of the resort.
According to snowmaking reports, as of Wednesday there were 19 inches of snow on top of the mountain. Lift mechanics, snow makers, and the rest of the mountain operations staff are hustling to ready the mountain for opening on Wed., Nov. 23.
Members of Telluride's Ski Patrol have had plenty of work to do despite the lack of snow, with crews working on the mountain throughout the week in preparation for opening day.
"We've been boot-packing and ski-packing runs, and padding lift towers," reports Telluride Ski Patrol Supervisor Jason Rogers.
Additionally, the terrain on Gold Hill has been "rolled," using the resort's one-of-a-kind winch roller. The Telluride-invented device is used to compact the snow in steep areas such as the Little Rose and Dynamo runs off of Lift 14. It works much like a giant rolling pin suspended by cable from a Snowcat.
The ski patrol also began work on Prospect Ridge yesterday, and will continue with snow safety and avalanche control measures, such as ski and boot packing, across the mountain throughout the coming weeks.
"We're really just two storms away from a fantastic early season," Ski Patrol Director Gary Richard said.
Amid their early-season efforts to prepare for opening day, the ski patrol welcomed three new full-time patrollers for the upcoming winter season. Ken and Aleph Pippin are both professional ski patrollers whose previous work experience includes patrolling at Snow Basin in Utah; Aleph has also worked patrolled at the Silverton Mountain Resort.
The Telluride Ski Patrol's French Exchange program is alive and well this year, hosting French ski patroller Xavier Segler for the winter season. Telluride patroller Tony Daranyi and his family, of Norwood, are spending this winter in Tignes, France, where Tony will be working for that area's patrol.
"We're remaining optimistic about a great season," Richard said, "but now it all rests on the shoulders of Mother Nature."