Powderhorn taps city reservoir to supply water for snowmaking

Powderhorn Mountain Resort operates what officials hail as one of the most efficient snowmaking systems at any ski resort in North America thanks to an agreement with the City of Grand Junction.

Powderhorn partnered with the city to develop a gravity-fed water delivery system for snowmaking operations. The system draws water from the city’s Anderson Reservoir No. 2, which is located above the resort on the Grand Mesa.

Unlike systems elsewhere that require large pumps to move water uphill, the system at Powderhorn uses small pumps to charge the system and then gravity to supply water, said Ryan Schramm, general manager at Powderhorn. 

“This results in significant energy savings over a traditional system, keeping electricity costs low and correlating to our company’s long-term commitment to sustainable operations,” Schramm said.

Under the agreement with the city, Powderhorn can purchase up to 140 acre-feet of water a year beginning Oct. 15. Powderhorn began testing new snow guns in late October and has used 44.5 acre-feet of water since then. Unlike water consumed in other uses, water flowing through the snow guns freezes into snow on the trails and then melts in the spring. 

Randi Kim, utilities director for the City of Grand Junction, said the agreement allows the use of water from the reservoir while protecting the quality and quantity of the city water supply.

“Once we identified Anderson No. 2 as an option, we had our consultant evaluate potential impacts to the city’s water supply. The 140 acre-feet is only a small fraction of the city’s water supply. The Kannah Creek watershed can reliably yield 6,400 acre-feet of water. Even if we have two drought years in row, our model indicates that we can meet annual water demands and maintain 6,000 acre-feet in storage going into the winter months,” Kim said.

Shramm said the city worked closely with Powderhorn during design and construction to complete the project ahead of the latest ski season. 

“The city helped us accomplish this project on a tight timeline by reviewing design plans, providing necessary easements and providing lay down areas for construction,” he said.