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Lee Canyon prepares for winter season after surviving Hilary

Updated October 16, 2023 - 5:12 pm

Snow enthusiasts will have an improved Lee Canyon to enjoy this winter, partially in thanks to Mother Nature.

It could have been much the opposite when Tropical Storm Hilary stormed through Southern Nevada on Aug. 20.

The rare West Coast storm, which had been a hurricane just hours before reaching Nevada, left destruction in its path, much of it at Mount Charleston.

Hilary largely spared the ski resort while delivering destruction to roads and heavy damage to water systems on the mountain community. Road and water system repairs remain ongoing as winter approaches.

Lee Canyon crews moved thousands of tons of debris that was pushed downhill by the storm. Crews also made minor repairs and inspected various building systems to prepare for the winter season.

“It happened so fast we didn’t know what to anticipate,” Lee Canyon marketing director Jim Seely said of the tropical storm, noting that if it had hit on a different path or with more velocity, the result might have been very different.

While the feet of rock and dirt debris posed removal work, a water diversion plan was in place to keep the main lodge and base of operations from sustaining major damage, Seely said.

“All of the debris that was pushed around the chairlift and below Rabbit Peak has been hauled back to where it needs to be,” he said. “We have a good crew that can handle heavy machinery.”

Water, electrical, plumbing and other systems escaped major damage and are ready for the upcoming winter.

Aiming for usual opening date

The resort plans on its customary opening of late November to early or mid-December, pending suitable weather and snow, Seely said. Visitors will see improvements with a new four-seat Ponderosa Tower chairlift that will allow easier access to terrain above Rabbit Peak Trail. The resort has invested $7 million in capital improvements, primarily in chairlifts and parking.

“We’re really excited about it,” Seely said of the six-tower lift. “It will help families and beginners to more terrain as they develop (their skills).”

The Ponderosa Tower chairlift is on the mountain’s southeast side, providing access to easier intermediate runs such as Foxtail Alley, Limber Pine Lane and Bonanza Ridge, according to a news release.

“The Ponderosa chair will allow guests to access popular trails more easily, while skiers/riders will be disbursed throughout the property,” said Dan Hooper, Lee Canyon’s general manager. Guests will access the Ponderosa chair via a conveyor lift in the Rabbit Peak chairlift area.

Parking has been in short supply in recent seasons, with available spaces filing up early each day. Lee Canyon officials hope the expansion of the parking area by 450 spaces, bringing the total to around 1,100, will help alleviate the issue.

With a warm October so far, cooler temperatures in November should facilitate snowmaking operations.

“We like it to drop below freezing and stay below freezing for at least six hours,” Seely said of the signal that snow creating can commence.

Hiring 150 for winter

Lee Canyon announced Monday there are about 150 employment opportunities available, and it is taking applications online. Full and part-time openings include seasonal positions in food and beverage, guest services, Lee Canyon’s ski and snowboard school, Lee Canyon Sports, mountain operations and more. The resort also has openings in year-round positions such as accounting, food and beverage and maintenance.

“We’re looking for people who share our passion about the outdoors and who value community connection,” Seely said. “Lee Canyon is a great way to get started working in Nevada’s outdoor recreation industry that’s growing fast.”

For many roles, skiing and snowboarding experience isn’t required. Some employee benefits such as health insurance and 401(k) plans are based on eligibility requirements.

Mount Charleston repair update

After the storm, the Nevada Department of Transportation identified extensive damage in 43 different locations along critical roadways in the area. An 856-foot section of state Route 157 near the Rainbow Canyon area was completely washed out.

Since Aug. 29, crews have been working seven days a week to expedite the restoration process, according to an NDOT news release.

NDOT has been making repairs and has also bolstered defenses against future flooding and enhanced drainage systems along the affected routes.

Crews continue to make progress in Old Town to repair damaged water infrastructure, according to the Las Vegas Valley Water District as of Oct. 12. Pending unforeseen delays, work remains on track for completion by the end of November.

Drinking water remains available to all Old Town residents via the potable tank in the neighborhood. Laundry and sanitary facilities remain available at The Retreat on Charleston Peak Hotel.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com.

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