Grand Junction’s City Council helped solve a problem this week which should reap rewards for the City of Grand Junction, Powderhorn Mountain Resort, and the local economy. The resort had previously announced plans to substantially expand its snowmaking system this summer. To make that plan cost effective and sustainable, the resort and the City needed to find a way to reduce both power consumption and the evaporative water loss that occurs when moving water any significant distance in the semi-arid West. The City of Grand Junction found a way.
Powderhorn already had a long-term lease from the City of Grand Junction to draw water from the Somerville Reservoir near the top of the Grand Mesa. The distance between the Somerville source and the resort meant the system faced significant evaporative loss of nearly 50% of replenishment water transported by ditch to Somerville. The distance and topography also meant significant pumps needed to be installed which would mean lots of power consumption.
After working with Powderhorn and their engineers, the team determined major amounts of water and electricity could be saved if the water was supplied from the Anderson Reservoir, which is closer to the resort, rather than from the Somerville Reservoir. At last night’s Council meeting, the City approved the change in the water source which means there could be a new, efficient delivery system via Anderson Reservoir. This would not only conserve the Grand Valley’s water resources, it would pave the way for increased snowmaking at the resort, which would lead to more local employment and tourism opportunities.
The increased feasibility created by using the Anderson Reservoir as the water source is only one step, albeit a major one, in the process of getting the enhanced snowmaking system installed at Powderhorn. Now that plans to draw water from Anderson Reservoir have been approved by the Grand Junction City Council, the resort is awaiting final approval from the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to be able to move forward with the conceived construction.
Conservation of resources was an important factor in developing the plans for the snowmaking system at Powderhorn. Because of the reduced distance and the way the water would get from Anderson to the resort, evaporative loss should be reduced by about 50%, and since the water would come off the top of the Grand Mesa and flow almost entirely downhill, it would be the most energy-efficient snowmaking system in Colorado. The City would continue to monitor the remaining capacity of the watershed to insure adequate reserves into the future.
“This long-term agreement between Powderhorn and the City of Grand Junction allows the City to put to use available water that will benefit our region as a whole providing more reliable skiing at Powderhorn. It will also minimize environmental impact as the pipeline is combined with the Palisade Plunge connector trail, an area recreation amenity that the City supports as an economic driver for the Grand Valley,” said Grand Junction Mayor Pro Tem Bennett Boeschenstein.
“In an industry that relies almost entirely on Mother Nature, water for snowmaking helps ensure jobs for our employees even in low snow years,” noted Powderhorn General Manager Ryan Schramm. “It also means locals, and especially visitors, can book holiday travel in advance based on the increased reliability of snow on the slopes. Working together with Grand Junction to find a more efficient solution is the icing on the cake. Not only would we be able to provide more dependable employment and a consistent product to draw visitors which benefits businesses across the Western Slope, we have found a way to do so that would conserve water and power resources.”
Provided the U.S. Forest Service and other agency approvals are forthcoming this spring, construction is planned for this summer. By combining the snowmaking project with construction of a trail connecting Powderhorn’s bike park with the Palisade Plunge, the environmental impacts of both projects would be minimized by utilizing the same alignment.
“Powderhorn couldn’t be more appreciative of the partnership with the City of Grand Junction and their assistance in developing a plan that would benefit the Grand Valley for future seasons and generations,” Schramm explained. “Right now, we’ve got incredible snow, but this time last year skiers and riders were singing a different tune. If we can get the top to bottom snowmaking installed this summer, that sort of issue would be less of a concern next year and beyond.”