Water at work on the mountain

A crew at Winter Park Resort makes snow this past November. This — and other — local ski areas rely on Denver Water to make snow each year. Photo courtesy of Winter Park.

Water at work on the mountain

By Jay Adams

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 uses about 3 million gallons of water a day and 65-75 million gallons of water each year for snowmaking. That much water would serve as many as 575 households, or 1,500 people, for one year.

Winter Park’s pump station sits right next to a Denver Water Vasquez Canal gauge station, which is checked regularly by Denver Water utility workers Kyle Keller and Dave Shaw. The two drive snowmobiles up and down the ski runs to access the gauging station where they measure how much water is running through the canal.

“It’s pretty cool,” Keller said. “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.

Left to right: Dave Shaw, Denver Water utility worker; Kyle Keller, Denver Water utility worker; and Bob Dart, Winter Park director of mountain maintenance; standing in front of the resort’s pump house. The pump house sits on top of the Vasquez Canal.

Left to right: Dave Shaw, Denver Water utility worker; Kyle Keller, Denver Water utility worker; and Bob Dart, Winter Park director of mountain maintenance; in front of the resort’s pump house, which sits on top of Denver Water’s Vasquez Canal.

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