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No business like snow business: Powderhorn prepares for ski season

There’s no business quite like the snow business.

Powderhorn has cleared its slopes of brush, installed new features in its terrain parks and introduced new pricing packages — all in an effort to bring more skiers and snowboarders to the Grand Mesa resort east of Grand Junction.

The ultimate success of the ski season, though, will depend to a large extent on Mother Nature. “Snow trumps everything,” said Sarah Allen, director of marketing at Powderhorn.

Heavy snowfall through November laid the foundation for a good season. Now, Allen hopes a pattern that occurred last season repeats itself this season: snowstorms nearly every week.

As of press time, Powderhorn was scheduled to open Dec. 16. There’s a chance, though, that opening could be pushed up a week to Dec. 9.

Opening day — as well as the amount of terrain that will be available for skiing and snowboarding — depends on the weather. That includes not only snow, but the cold temperatures required for snow-making operations, Allen said. Powderhorn will offer as much terrain as conditions make safely possible, she said.

What’s more certain, Allen said, is that an extensive brush cutting operation over the summer will make it possible to open more terrain earlier with less snow. Of course, once sufficient snow has fallen, the issue becomes moot, she added.

Powderhorn offers a total of about 1,600 acres of terrain, 600 of that along groomed runs served by four lifts. About half the acreage is rated for skiers and snowboarders with intermediate abilities, with 20 percent of terrain for beginners and 30 percent for those with advanced and expert skills.

Besides brush cutting, Powderhorn has installed several additions to its terrain parks, which offer natural and man-made features for jumping and sliding. “They’re very unique,” Allen said.

Powderhorn has introduced new discount lift ticket programs and lodging packages, too.

The Deca Card sells for $150 and is good for the purchase of 10 half-price lift tickets. The card can be used at any time and more than once the same day, Allen said.

Consequently, the card offers discounts not only to individuals, but also families, groups and employees. “That’s been really popular,” she said.

Another promotion offers what’s dubbed as a stay and play package at the Inn at Wildewood at Powderhorn. The $209 package includes one’s night lodging and dinner for two as well as two lift tickets. For those who don’t want want to go downhill skiing or snowboarding, the lift tickets can be exchanged for cross-country ski or snowshoe rentals.

While Powderhorn is located in the same state as some of the largest and most prestigious ski resorts in the world, Powderhorn competes by catering to a local and regional clientele, Allen said. “We really focus on the Grand Valley and the Western Slope.”

Allen said Powderhorn also offers a more affordable skiing and snowboarding experience with adult lift tickets priced at $56 — about half what full-priced tickets sell for at some destination resorts.

That’s not to mention the friendly service or unique views of desert canyons afforded from the top of the Grand Mesa, she added.
Sales of season passes, one leading indicator of business at Powderhorn is up 8 percent, Allen said.

Still, snowfall remains one of the biggest factors of all in bringing skiers and snowboarders to Powderhorn. That’s why Allen and others are the resort are hoping for a decidedly white Christmas and continued accumulations throughout the season.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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