The big guns are running at Sunrise Park Resort laying down a 12 to 18 inch base for opening day skiers.

The ski area will open on Black Friday with all-white conditions from midway on the Fairway run, starting at 9 a.m.

This season, the resort has added 10 new state-of-the-art snow guns. The guns, TR8s by TechnoAlpin, are computer controlled. Sunrise’s snowmaking director, Fred, can control each gun from his cellphone.

(Fred asked that we withhold his last name. He’s been with Sunrise for four decades. He runs the snowmaking and grooming operations.)

Each of the new guns cost around $40,000 – that’s a $320,000 investment to dramatically improve the resort’s snowmaking capabilities.

The weather last week allowed the snowmaking operation to run 12 to 14 hours a night and the snow is piling up.

Sunrise still employs its old snow guns – 20 Rat Necks and eight stick guns – but the TR8s have added a whole new dimension to the operation, Fred said.

If something goes wrong with the new guns – most commonly a broken waterline – the TR8s will sense the pressure drop and shut down automatically in five seconds. In that situation, with the older guns “they didn’t tell you,” he said, “and you ended up with a lake where you didn’t want it.”

Working with the new equipment, Fred said, “is really quite amazing. I never thought I’d see something like this.”

From a computer monitor in the newly established command center, Fred can see that one of the guns was converting 96 gallons of water per minute to snow. He can see that last Friday night, all 10 of the TR8s were pushing 600 gallons per minute.

With so much new snowmaking capacity, Fred said, they have to carefully monitor the 8 million gallon lake that holds their water.

Fred is wearing two hats this year, he directs the snowmaking and is in charge of grooming – operating the snowcat, a track vehicle with a plow used to spread out the newly made snow. Since Halloween, when the new guns arrived, he’s worked 16 hours, seven days per week.

As he started up in the mountain at the helm of a Prinoth snowcat early Saturday morning it was evident that even after four decades on the mountain he’s not tired of his job. He hasn’t grown tired of the view from his office windshield. The Prinoth doesn’t strain at all on the steep slope when he lowers the plow to spread the six-foot mounds of newly made snow.

Fred talks about the improved quality of the snow the new guns produce. He mentions that the new system will come on automatically when temperatures are low enough.

There are plans in the works this year for more improvements to the resort’s snowmaking operation. Phase II, he says, if it goes forward, will include all new concrete encased steel piping from Lake Ono up the mountain, a new pump system and more TR8s, some mounted on 20-foot towers.

This year, when Sunrise opens, they’ll be open seven days a week right from the start.

For more information call 855-735-7669 or go online to sunriseskiparkaz.com.

Reach the county editor at tcorrigan@wmicentral.com.

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