The managers at [R309R, Parjarito Mountain] were all ready to crank up snowmaking for the first time this winter, but an iceberg changed their plans.

Last season, owners of Los Alamos (N.M.) Ski Club decided they wanted more guaranteed skiing and riding around Christmas at the private-public mountain. The club paid for a 10 million-gallon runoff reservoir, 10,000 feet of pipeline, and pumps to cover 40 of the 300 skiable acres.

Then, circumstances changed. A heavy snowmelt after one of the best seasons ever at Pajarito built up a giant snow-ice cornice at the reservoir's edge, located just off the summit, General Manager Tom Long told OnTheSnow. The cornice eventually let go, floated across the pond, and demolished the outlet pipe, Long said.

"We thought it was just snow and would melt, but instead we got a cornice," he said. "We'll have to postpone snowmaking for one season. We learned something."

Skiers at the national laboratory in Los Alamos first built their own ski area on Runyon Hill but moved to Pajarito Mountain in the early 1950s. Membership has grown to 3,000, Long said, but many got discouraged by the erratic snowfall early in the season.

"We wanted to get a variety of terrain open for Christmas to protect the passes of our members," he said. "This group will ski on heavy frost in November."

The general skiing public can ski or ride at Parjarito on Friday-Sunday and federal holidays, plus a full two weeks over Christmas-New Year's Day break.