Vermont's High-Tech Snow-Making Ensures Quality Terrain
Jen Butson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Snowmaking at Vermont’s ski areas covers 4,360 acres of terrain with more than 120 chairlifts accessing those abundant trails; a land area five times the size of New York’s Central Park.
Vermont has the most terrain covered by snowmaking in the East. “Vermont ski areas are equipped to make their own snowstorms with snowmaking systems running full tilt,” said Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle. “With over 600 miles of snowmaking pipes and superior snow guns, Vermont ski resorts have enough capacity to fill Gillette Stadium with over 40 feet of snow in one hour.”
Ski resorts are also consistently upgrading their snowmaking technology. Partnered with Efficiency Vermont, the last decade of improvements at ski areas has not only saved $25.6 million in energy and fuel-costs but has also increased the quality of snowmaking.
Vermont’s snowmaking prowess allows many resorts to jumpstart the season by opening earlier, with more quality terrain. Snowmaking is also critical for recovery from inclement weather and adds to the base for a solid spring skiing season.
Snow-making news at individual resorts:
Jay Peak Resort
More than 100 new Tower Guns (that’s 64 HKD 30’ Spectrum Tower Guns and 40 HKD Focus Tower Guns) will be placed along notoriously challenging areas like Montrealer, Northway, Vermonter, Angel's Wiggle, Paradise Meadows, Alligator Alley and, thankfully, Perry Merrill. The resort will also install snowmaking on beginners’ favorite Grammy Jay.
Jay will be doubling up on hydrants on Upper River Quai and also purchasing a brand new Air-After-Cooler dropping the time to cool compressed air, after it leaves the pumphouse, in half. We understand this isn’t “real” snow but we’re doing what we can to help the powder that’s coming to be skiable sooner and last longer into the spring.
“Yes, we have been building off-hill amenities, but we know people come here first and foremost for the skiing and riding and we remain committed to continually improving the on-hill experience as well,” said Jay’s president Bill Stenger. “Expanding snowmaking coverage, buying new groomers, and providing an easier way for beginners to enjoy the sport are priorities we take very seriously.”
While the snowmaking expansion largely benefits those already "Raised Jay", those in the process will have a new enclosed Sun Kid® moving-carpet beginner lift to ride this season. The new surface conveyor will move guests up 250 feet (two and a half times the length of the old conveyor) and will be protected from the elements by a giant Plexiglas enclosure. The resort also purchased a new Prinoth groomer this summer.
Snowmaking upgrades top the list of summer projects, including trunk line replacements, energy efficiency upgrades, pump re-builds and a new cooling system at the South Ridge Pump House.
In addition to building up our arsenal of Lower Energy snow guns, including two new fan guns that will be positioned near the bottom of the Superstar and Snowshed trails, we will continue to partner with Efficiency Vermont to improve the overall efficiency of our snowmaking system. One such project, which was started two years ago and continued this past summer, applied a coating to the inside of the pumps that reduces friction and energy needed to pump water throughout our 88-mile system.
A new cooling system that drops the temperature of compressed air from 120+ degrees down to ambient outside temperatures at the South Ridge Pump House will improve efficiency by using much less energy than the old cooling system.
Mountain improvements continue with trail re-grading: Crews continue to work on numerous improvements throughout the resort as we prepare for the upcoming winter season. In fact, we currently have six excavators and a backhoe on the hill working on trail re-grading and snowmaking projects.
Okemo Mountain Resort
In its annual Top 50 Reader Resort Survey, SKI Magazine consistently recognizes Okemo Mountain Resort as one of the top ten resorts in the East, and one of the best for snow (ranked fourth in the East in 2009).
Okemo's dedication to providing a quality snow surface is directly proportionate to the amount of water that can be stored for making snow. A massive, 70-foot-deep reservoir that holds 155 million gallons of water is Okemo’s primary water source. In a typical year, Okemo pumps 450-500 million gallons of water through its snowmaking system. The system can pump 9,000 gallons of water and 37,000 cubic feet of compressed air per minute.
Okemo’s snowmaking capability covers 96 percent of the resort’s 632 skiable acres. An arsenal of HKD tower guns allows Okemo snowmakers to create an outstanding snow surface at reduced energy consumption. The resort’s newest snowmaking enhancements feature adjustable waterflow levers, nozzle versatility and new valving technology. The HKD SV-10s, Genesis and Ranger tower guns make snow more efficiently at closer-to-freezing temperatures, allowing Okemo to make the same amount of snow as always, using a reduced amount of energy and a fuel-cost savings of about $140,000 annually.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Smugglers’ Notch Resort’s fleet of 300 snowmaking guns provide coverage to nearly 100 percent of the resort’s beginner and intermediate terrain, with Mother Nature taking care of the glades and high elevation expert trails where natural features make snowmaking less efficient. In recent years Smugglers’ has increased the percentage of snow guns that are energy efficient, which now number 170 within the fleet. In addition to the high efficiency guns, Smugglers’ has taken other measures to increase energy efficiency and conservation in snowmaking operations. These include use of higher efficiency air compressors, more efficiently matching water demand requirements with the use of variable frequency pump drives, and reduction of the amounts of flush water used by the pump.
A Perfect Storm: Stowe’s fully automated snowmaking system on Spruce Peak
Stowe Mountain Resort is the only ski area in New England to use fully automated snowmaking. Spruce Peak has this state-of-the-art snowmaking system on its Main Street trail, amongst the most diverse top to bottom intermediate terrain in eastern N. America.
Manually, it’s nearly impossible to make all the necessary adjustments required to create the optimal snow quality desired by skiers. York’s fully automated snowmaking systems can create a perfect snowstorm with the click of a button. From one computer, a snowmaker can control all the snowmaking hydrants on the system.
Through the technological advances of computerized automation, the York system utilizes mini weather stations connected to the hydrants to continually adjust the ratio of water to air. In addition, the central control unit can adjust the direction of each hydrant independently. The result is a gold standard skiing surface, with a uniformity of depth and consistency of snow quality from the top of the trail to the bottom.
Stratton has made significant technology and efficiency upgrades in snowmaking by adding new snow guns. Stratton also upgraded two of its front line Snow Cats with new Prinoth BR350’s; these cats produce higher quality and more efficient grooming.
In addition to the $10 million addition to the village… on the snowy side of things, Sugarbush has replaced key sections of its snowmaking infrastructure: over two miles of primary-supply snowmaking pipe have been replaced at both Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen. The original pipe was installed in 1997.
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