City seeks potential snowmaking systems for Aspen Snowmass Nordic trails (2024)

City seeks potential snowmaking systems for Aspen Snowmass Nordic trails (1)

The Aspen Parks and Open Space Department seeks approval from the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for a contract with SE Group to plan and design potential snowmaking systems for the Aspen Snowmass Nordic trails.

This 90-kilometer trail system is vital to Aspen’s winter recreation and is operated by the city of Aspen Parks Department. The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails mill levy funds the trail system, with expenses reimbursed through a long-standing intergovernmental agreement.

The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council, the advisory board for the Nordic program, supports the City’s management and has initiated a feasibility study for snowmaking.

“This money is for the study and design,” Mayor Torre, addressing the necessity of the initiative, said during an Aspen City Council meeting on Tuesday.

He noted that 10 years ago, the idea would have been met with surprise, but acknowledged the significant changes in temperature and snow accumulation since then.

Matt Kuhn, Parks and Open Space Director said the Nordic trail system, which the city officials and council have considered for some time now, is funded by Pitkin County. Meanwhile, Aspen is the operational arm, and all expenses are reimbursed by the county.

Kuhn highlighted that a preliminary feasibility study was conducted two years ago.

“We aim to understand all the components necessary for snowmaking at these two locations,” he said, identifying high-use areas such as the Moore Ball Fields for competitive programs and the Aspen Snowmass X-C Center on the golf course for beginners.

Historically reliant on natural snowfall and stable cold temperatures, the Nordic trail system now faces challenges due to variable weather conditions and increased usage. The recent surge in recreational and competitive Nordic skiing has heightened the need for reliable snow coverage, particularly near the high school and golf course trails.

The proposed project will explore the feasibility of snowmaking systems in these critical areas, analyzing various factors and producing schematic and design development drawings for potential installations.

The project is structured in three phases. Initially, the consultant will assess the feasibility of artificial snowmaking in the identified areas, mapping them thoroughly and analyzing land use requirements. Opportunities and constraints will be identified with input from the Parks and Open Space staff.

Following the feasibility study, the consultant will refine the design of potential snowmaking systems. This phase includes evaluating potential trail alterations, layout alternatives, resource demands such as water and electricity, and providing a probable cost estimate for construction.

The final phase involves detailed design development, specifying trail alignments, resource estimates, system specifications, infrastructure layout, and a refined cost estimate. Comprehensive documentation and formal recommendations will be provided.

In May 2024, a request for proposals was issued, resulting in two submissions evaluated based on firm experience, collaborative willingness, team composition, project understanding, and budget and timeline. SE Group, with prior experience in the Aspen community, was selected. The project is slated to commence in the third week of July.

Construction and installation of snowmaking systems are not part of this project and are not funded in the long-term Parks Fund plan. Future discussions with Pitkin County, the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council, and other stakeholders will be necessary based on the study’s outcomes.

Scott Lacy, assistant Nordic coordinator, noted: “We typically try to keep the course open until the end of March. This past year, we had to close about five to six days early.”

He emphasized the community’s reliance on the Nordic system, particularly for the kids’ Nordic program, which would otherwise have to travel to areas like Grand Mesa or West Yellowstone. Lacy acknowledged the necessity of the project, stating that without intervention, the situation would worsen.

Mayor Pro-tem John Doyle, who expressed support for the proposal, added, “Another issue that was brought up is that we need to shade some of these areas from the sun. Snow machines could be available after Highlands is finished making its pre-season snow.”

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the motion to the consent calendar.

The Nordic Trail Snowmaking project is funded within the 2024 Parks Fund Capital Project Budget, with a total budget of $150,000. The contract with SE Group for planning and design services is capped at $140,000. Environmental impacts are a crucial consideration, and the consultant is tasked with detailing and mitigating potential impacts in their designs. The report on environmental impacts will form part of the contracted services, ensuring responsible and sustainable planning.

Westley Crouch covers the City of Aspen and general reporting for The Aspen Times. He can be reached at 970-384-9124 or

City seeks potential snowmaking systems for Aspen Snowmass Nordic trails (2024)
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