CASPER, Wyo. — Casper City Council will vote Tuesday whether to dredge and reline a pond at the base of Hogadon Ski Area, restoring the pond’s original capacity to hold water used for snowmaking.
Decades of debris and sediment runoff has reduced the 1.7 million-gallon pond by at least a quarter, according to Chris Smith, the ski area director.
“It’s bad for the pumps, but it’s also bad because it takes up valuable water space, and we need every gallon of water we can get up there,” Smith said.
At the bottom of the pond is a liner installed sometime in the late ’70s or early ’80s. The aging, cracked piece of rubber is leaking water almost as fast as the natural spring runoff can refill it, Smith added, so the $170,000 project is vital.
$75K master plan
The project is one of about $6.4 million in ski area improvements necessary for Hogadon’s survival, according to a $75,000 master plan commissioned by the Council.
Among those projects is a new lodge, maintenance building, ski patrol hut and four-person chairlift.
Without major investment in the next two years, the failure of aging equipment and buildings could force the ski area to close, consultants declared.
The city has installed a new beginner lift and added two new snow guns last season.
City officials have declared both purchases a success, and the Council is expected to add more snow guns for next season.
The Council also approved a $142,000 bandage for the drive, control and brake systems on the aging main lift, which should be finished this week, according to Leisure Services Director Doug Follick.
However, the Council continues to push off buildings like the ski patrol hut and maintenance shed, citing recent cost estimates that far outstrip what consultants suggested in the master plan.
If the pond liner project is approved, and next year’s budget passes as presented, the next project might be a new pump system, Follick said.
“(The old system) was designed and built by municipal water people and not ski area people,” Follick said.
“(The new system) would be built specifically for snowmaking … we want to make it as easy as possible for the people making snow at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. in the winter. That’s not a pleasant environment.”
The new pump system would be more automated.
It would also have the capability to gauge the temperature in order to direct the right amount of water to the snow guns that need it most.
It remains to be seen whether the combination of maintenance and upgrades to snowmaking at Hogadon will lead to earlier opening days, Smith said, but that is the hope.