U.S. Water News Online
DURANGO, Colo. -- Cloud seeding will resume at Durango
Mountain Resort this winter after a 15-year hiatus, in an effort to
produce the kind of heavy snowfalls the area enjoyed in the 1970s and
Beginning Nov. 1, clouds over the upper Hermosa Creek drainage
will be laced with minute particles of silver iodide shot from
generators on the ground.
Officials at the resort -- formerly called Purgatory -- hope the
seeding will produce snowfall volumes 120 to 160 percent above
normal, as when the area participated in a similar program that ended
The $42,000 cost of the program run by Western Weather Consultants
of Durango will be split evenly between the resort and the
Southwestern Water Conservation District, which hopes the extra
precipitation squeezed from the sky will translate into more water
Water district board members approved the expenditure, along with
money for two other cloud-seeding programs -- one in the upper San
Miguel drainage for $52,000 and one for the Dolores Water Conservancy
District, costing $10,000.
The Southwestern water district will pay half of each of the three
programs. The Telluride ski area will pay for half of the San Miguel
program; the Dolores water district will pay half of its program.
For the upper Hermosa Creek drainage, nine cloud-seeding
generators owned by Western Weather Consultants will run for 750
hours between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, 2001.
``When we had the program before we were more generalized
targeting for the San Juans,'' said Larry Hjermstad, president of
Western Weather Consultants. ``Now we'll be more specifically
targeting on the east part for Durango Mountain Resort.''
He said after the upper Hermosa program ended in 1985, snowfall
dipped below normal for the first time in a decade. Since then,
snowfall has averaged from 70 percent of normal to just above normal,
and last winter was one of the worst snowfalls on record for the
``It was ironic that almost immediately after the program stopped,
the weather systems made an abrupt change and Southwestern Colorado
and much of Colorado ended up being in a much significantly drier
weather pattern,'' Hjermstad said. He called the shift a coincidence.
Hjermstad said he asked Durango Mountain Resort's previous owners
to restart the program in the mid-1990s, but they said they didn't
have the money.
He sold the idea to the area's new management in part by saying it
reduced reliance on snowmaking.
Mike McCormack, Durango Mountain Resort's vice president of
mountain operations, said two seasons of sub-par snowfall spurred the
ski area to action.
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