The Aspen Skiing Company and Snowmass Water and Sanitation agree on deal for storage to extend snow-making season


From the Aspen Daily News:

“In the past, the Aspen Skiing Co. has paid the district to pump water from Snowmass Creek up the hill for its snowmaking facilities,” said Kit Hamby, Snowmass Water and Sanitation district manager. “Now, we can store water at Ziegler during runoff periods and then make that water available for snowmaking beyond the traditional November and December period. The agreement is a great improvement for the district’s whole water system, and it benefits the health of Snowmass Creek.”

Through past agreements, water can only be pulled out of Snowmass Creek for snowmaking until December 31. Now, all snowmaking water will come from Ziegler Reservoir instead of directly out of Snowmass Creek, allowing snowmaking to be extended past that period. Water is stored at Ziegler Reservoir through a gravity feed from East Snowmass Creek.

“Decoupling snowmaking from Snowmass Creek has been a holy grail of our environmental work at Aspen Skiing Co. for 15 years,” said Auden Schendler, SkiCo’s vice president of sustainability. “This project moves us towards that goal. It will also help us make snow more efficiently and more effectively, using less water and less energy than ever. It’s an environmental victory from any angle.”

The agreement stipulates that the SkiCo will pay the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District $1.25 million down and $100,000 a year for 20 years for a total cost of $3.25 million. The district will use the money to pay down Colorado Water Conservation loans that were made for the purchase and construction of Ziegler Reservoir.

The agreement highlights one of the major benefits Ziegler Reservoir offers. Now, the district has a water management tool that allows it to take water out at high rates for system recovery or snowmaking, and allows the district to store water during high flow periods and use water when the streams are at their lowest.

In the past, water was drawn from Snowmass Creek when temperatures were the coldest and was limited because those are also times that water in the creek is at its lowest. Now, snowmaking can be operationally enhanced because the water will be drawn from Ziegler Reservoir during those coldest times. Making snow during the coldest times makes the snow lighter, creates better coverage with less water, and saves electrical costs because compressors don’t have to be used as much.

From The Aspen Times (Jill Beathard):

Previously, Skico pumped water from Snowmass Creek to make snow and could draw from the creek only until Dec. 31. The $3.25 million deal will allow Skico to make snow past that date as well as decrease the impact to the creek. “This is what we’ve been pushing for in the past,” said Kit Hamby, Water and Sanitation District manager. “The ski company has operated using direct flows from Snowmass Creek. (It would) drop that creek 5 or 6 (cubic feet per second).”

In the early winter, when Skico usually makes snow, the creek is at its lowest, so that would mean about half the flow. “We don’t want to impact the stream, as well,” Hamby said.

Water is stored in Ziegler through a gravity feed from East Snowmass Creek. Skico can access the water at any time during the ski season as long as it was stored as of Dec. 31. “Essentially you’re taking water out of the reservoir that’s stored during runoff and using it when the creek would be low,” Hamby said.

Also, snowmaking is most necessary during the driest times of year, and lower temperatures are more optimal for snowmaking because they make the snow lighter and allow for better coverage with less water.

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.

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