A Day in the Life of a Snowmaker at Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Posted on Oct. 6, 2023
Transitioning a ski resort from summer to winter operations is no small task. Many departments need to work together to get Crested Butte Mountain Resort ready for guests to enjoy on opening day, and one of the most vital of these is snowmaking. Our snowmaking operations cover nearly 300 of Crested Butte’s 1,547 skiable acres, allowing us to get a jump start on skiing and riding as we work to offer our guests reliable early season snow coverage. We sat down with two of our snowmakers, Eric and Jackson, to find out what a typical day looks like for a snowmaker at CBMR.
Early Season Snowmaking in the Base Area
The job is split into two 12-hour shifts to ensure there is a snowmaking crew on the mountain at all times in the pre- and early seasons. Each shift begins the same way: with a meeting at Snowflake, the snowmaking headquarters located mid-mountain. There, snowmakers discuss where they will focus on making snow that day, what equipment needs to be moved or put away, and any necessary repairs to address.

A snowmaker’s day can vary greatly depending on their shift. In the early season, when daytime temperatures are warmer, most snow is made in the overnight hours. On these days, snowmakers on the swing shift start up the snow guns toward the end of their workday, and snowmakers on the graveyard shift shut them down after sunrise.

After meeting at Snowflake, swing shift snowmakers spend their shift moving snow guns and other equipment around the mountain using snowmobiles and snowcats. They then re-set that equipment and connect it to the water pump and air compression systems. Swing shift snowmakers get everything in place in the early season so their graveyard shift counterparts can maximize their snowmaking potential while temperatures allow.

When the wet bulb temperature falls below 27 degrees (wet bulb temperature is calculated by combining the air temperature with humidity levels), it’s typically cold enough to turn the snow guns on. Once the season really gets underway and temperatures are low enough, snow can be made around the clock. Snowmakers must keep a close eye on the snow guns once they are on. A slight change in wind direction, for example, can cause snow to accumulate in the wrong spot and can quickly result in a buried hydrant! Eric and Jackson compare their role to that of nurses attending to hospital patients: running from one room to the next, making sure everyone is comfortable and has what they need.

Snowmaking typically begins around Nov. 1 and wraps up around Jan. 1. The team’s goal in those 60 days is to create a skiable base on our snowmaking trails. After that, the crew shuts down the snow guns and puts away the equipment for the season. Many snowmakers, including Eric and Jackson, transition to join our grooming team for the remainder of the winter season.

Our snowmakers have work to do in the summer, too, such as equipment replacements and upgrades. Eric and Jackson were busy during summer 2023, working on service and maintenance projects for snowmaking equipment such as compressors and motors. As ski season inches closer, snowmaking crews put all the equipment back out on the mountain and make sure it is working properly before they turn the snow guns on for another season.

Eric has been making snow at CBMR since 2000. With more than two decades of experience, he has a lot of knowledge to share with newer snowmakers like Jackson, who learned the ropes in 2021. With just 7 people in each snowmaking crew, snowmakers get to know one another very well. The better they know each other and their work styles, Eric and Jackson say, the more productive they can be as a team.

In addition to the team, Eric and Jackson agree that the best part about making snow at CBMR is the opportunity to live in our amazing community. Access to skiing, biking and hiking is just outside their office door. You can sometimes even spot Jackson riding his unicycle down the mountain! Eric says he never tires of watching sunrises and sunsets on the mountain with no one else around.

Next time you're out skiing or riding and spot a snowmaker, say hello! People who are interested in joining our snowmaking team can apply online.