Snowmaking teams help start season
Early-season skiers can thank the snowmaking teams at local resorts for the runs they’ve been able to ski since the resorts opened over the holiday weekend.
Snowmaking technology is advancing and resorts are relying on it more and more to provide predictability to the season.
"It’s so important at getting the resorts open these days, and it gives us the ability to stay open until our closing date," said Brian Suahdolc, PCMR’s Snowmaking Operations Manager.
Snowmaking is important at the beginning of the season because it provides a solid base of snow for the resorts that will last until the spring.
"We can have a consistent product each season, even in times of inconsistent snowfall," said Paula Fabel, Communications Manager.
Officials at The Canyons say they are also relying heavily on manmade snow and have the guns running "whenever the weather cooperates."
"You can’t see ours from the road, but we are blowing snow, like, all the time," said Libby Dowd, Director of Public Relations.
Once temperatures drop below 28 degrees, the resorts are able to make snow. But the amount of snow that can be made increases exponentially with decreases temperatures and maxes out around 15 degrees. This means that at 28 degrees the resort can make 4 acre feet of snow per hour, at 28 degrees 15 acre feet per hour and at 15 degrees 25 acre feet of snow per hour.
"At lower temperatures we can flow more water and produce more product. That’s basically the goal of snowmaking," Suahdolc said.
PCMR has snowmaking abilities on 38 of their runs, which is 35 percent of the mountain. Currently they are making snow on the lower parts of the mountain including the Home Run, Payday and First Time runs.
While temperatures may have seemed low enough in Park City throughout the second half of November, experts at PCMR explained why they couldn’t make snow.
"The past couple weeks we’ve been dealing with an inversion. So it’s colder in the town than it is on the mountain. It seemed like we should be making snow, but we couldn’t," Fabel said.
PCMR’s snowmaking team consists of 23 people and is headed up by Suhadolc who is starting in on his 17th season at the resort.
PCMR employs three different types of snowmaking "guns" including 100 permanent tower guns; 25 permanent fan guns, which use newer, more efficient technology; and about 45 ground guns which are movable and can be used on trails that do not have permanent fixtures. Guns blow compressed air and water onto the runs so it can freeze before hitting the ground. Snowmaking is a chemical-free process.
This season, PCMR has invested in six new fan guns, which Suhadolc estimates to be about seven times more efficient than tower guns, in terms of energy use because they do not used compressed air. This helps cut back on the large amounts of energy that go into snowmaking. And they expect to purchase a few more this summer, also.
"The new fan guns we have are fully automated so we can just sit at a computer and start those up with the click of a mouse," Suahdolc said.
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