Delivering mountain water — for snowmaking

The Vasquez Canal runs through the perfect spot to help Winter Park make snow for the ski season.

February 18, 2015 | By: Jay Adams
Crews at Winter Park Resort make snow in preparation for opening day.
Crews at Winter Park Resort make snow in preparation for opening day. This — and other — local ski areas rely on Denver Water to make snow each year. Photo courtesy Carl Frey/Winter Park Resort.

Denver Water isn’t just good for drinking, it’s also good for skiing ­— and at one of Colorado’s oldest ski resorts, Denver Water delivers water for snowmaking right on the mountain.

The Vasquez Canal, completed in 1936 to divert water from Grand County through the Moffat Tunnel, just happened to be right in the middle of the Winter Park ski area when it opened in 1940.

The location of the canal proved to be ideal when the resort started making snow in 1976. Denver Water worked with the resort on an agreement to use the water, and a pump station was built right on top of the canal.

Extra credit“The canal makes it easy because it’s already diverted water we’re pulling from the canal right on our mountain,” said Doug Laraby, Winter Park Resort director of Planning and Development. “It’s a reliable source of water that guarantees an early-November opening.”

Winter Park’s snowmaking system can use up to 3.5 million gallons of water a day at max-capacity, and around 90-100 million gallons of water each year depending on conditions.

Winter Park’s pump station is located next to a Denver Water Vasquez Canal water gauging station, which is checked regularly by Denver Water utility workers. Crews drive snowmobiles and snowcats to access a gauging station where they measure how much water is running through the canal.

Denver Water crews use a snowcat to access a water gauging station located at Winter Park Resort.
Denver Water crews use a snowcat to access a water gauging station located at Winter Park Resort.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Kyle Keller, Denver Water facility operator. “Not everyone gets to ride snowmobiles, and we get to ride them for work.”

The ski area and Denver Water have developed a strong partnership over the years. “Denver Water has a big job to do moving water on the mountain, and we have a big job keeping skiers happy,” Laraby said.

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