A Snow Making Thread

joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
in NELSAP Forum Posts: 1,745
A  discussion of useless pods on another thread transitioned into some snowmaking issues

We've got a number of people on SJ who have been snowmakers and others who are curious.

To those who know, please confirm or dispel the following things I've heard and in some cases,  just an answer to the question:
1.  Making snow in large and deep whales is good early season, in that it self-insulates if there is a meltdown.
2.  Making snow in large and deep whales is expensive mid-season because it takes a lot of groomer-power to push out the whales (and running a groomer to do so costs between $150 and $200 per hour). 
3.  Major features in most parks are made of snow rather than soil covered by snow.  The location of features migrates and makes it easier (and safer for the tiller) if everything being moved, is snow.
4.  What % of the water/snow actually makes it to the trail (as opposed to spontaneously evaporating or going into the woods).  I am aware this can vary greatly with humidity, temperature,  wind direction and even the width of the trail - but these factors should not preclude a ball-park estimate.

Please add any other questions or answers to snowmaking issues that you might think of.
«134

Comments

  • lotsoskiinglotsoskiing expert
    Posts: 675
    As a former snowmaker, though a long time ago and I was just the monkey on the day shift who had to clean up the mess from the night shift...

    1. Whales are indeed more resistant to melt/rain. As they drain, they form somewhat of a shell that if the rain and heat don't last too long, will keep snow underneath from deteriorating.

    2. Making snow is most expensive when power companies jack rates, regardless of time of season. Cat time is cat time, so pushing snow around is always costly. Certainly the later you have to make snow, the less time you have to actually use your investment.

    3. Yes, though parks evolved after my snowmaking stint. From what I see in summer, few if any features have soil built up, except for the occasional halfpipe, but those seem to have gone the way of the rear-entry boot. Parks do coast a boatload due to the immense amount of snow needed, as well as cat time, etc. I often wonder if they pay off in ticket/hot chocolate sales.

    4. No idea, and yes, depends on so many factors. I would not even have a guestimate. Also depends on the goal. If you are making snow for a racing hill, you hammer water and make ice. Groom right away and it locks up. If you want fluffy public-friendly snow, then use less water, let it sit in whales until they drain, then push around.
  • newpylongnewpylong expert
    Posts: 531
    I concur.
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37
    We try to fan the guns once the mountain is open so there aren't piles you launch off of when the mountain is open. Fanning the gun (adjusting left or right) spreads the snow more evenly and puts much less stress on the cats and uses less fuel. However sometimes its so so cold and each gun is running wide open and puting out 3-4 ft an hour you just can't keep up with it.
    At my home mountain, if we are running mid day, we can only run half the water we were running the night before. At 9pm we can start adding guns and firing up a couple pumps/
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37
    Evap isn't a big issue with fan guns. Idk why. But if you're running a hkd and its below 10 degrees, it looks like ur making clouds.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,745
    lysikjake said:

    Evap isn't a big issue with fan guns. Idk why. But if you're running a hkd and its below 10 degrees, it looks like ur making clouds.

    Good answers lysikjake and lotsoskiing.  More questions:

    If it looks like clouds, isn't that evaporation?

    Any idea what percentage ends up in the woods>
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37

    lysikjake said:

    Evap isn't a big issue with fan guns. Idk why. But if you're running a hkd and its below 10 degrees, it looks like ur making clouds.

    Good answers lysikjake and lotsoskiing.  More questions:

    If it looks like clouds, isn't that evaporation?

    Any idea what percentage ends up in the woods>
    Yes most of the time. When it happens, you have to point the guns less than parallel to the slope for it to stick or it would all just blow off. In this picture, the older hkd's to the left tend to produce lots of evap.
    IMG_1375.PNG
    750 x 1334 - 655K
  • lotsoskiinglotsoskiing expert
    Posts: 675
    Amount in woods depends on wind and the attentiveness of the snowmakers. If conditions are right and the guns are pointed correctly, little or none will be in the woods. If the wind is wrong or the guns are not turned or lowered (angle) then lots will end up in the woods. You can usually tell if you see iced up trees or broken limbs near guns that they lost track of things and a lot went in the woods.

    A guess is that under perfect conditions, <5% goes to woods. If things are bad or not checked enough, easily 1/3 to 1/5 is in the woods or on the woods line, could be more. Just a guess though.

    IMO, even in tough winds, if the snowmakers are attentive, they get the lion's share on the trail.
  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 306

    Amount in woods depends on wind and the attentiveness of the snowmakers. If conditions are right and the guns are pointed correctly, little or none will be in the woods. If the wind is wrong or the guns are not turned or lowered (angle) then lots will end up in the woods. You can usually tell if you see iced up trees or broken limbs near guns that they lost track of things and a lot went in the woods.


    A guess is that under perfect conditions, <5% goes to woods. If things are bad or not checked enough, easily 1/3 to 1/5 is in the woods or on the woods line, could be more. Just a guess though.

    IMO, even in tough winds, if the snowmakers are attentive, they get the lion's share on the trail.
    I do enjoy riding a chairlift up and seeing all of guns water going straight into the woods. SMH

    As for snowmaking into the woods, it does help for spring skiing. Superstar in Killington has a good amount of snow in the woods and you can technically be riding glades in May.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    edited February 2 Posts: 1,745
    How long should a whale of snow be allowed to drain/dry out before grooming it?  I suspect this is probably dependant on a number of factors.  Can someone elaborate?

    I appreciate the answers.  I am surprised I am  the only one asking questions.
  • lotsoskiinglotsoskiing expert
    Posts: 675
    We usually let sit 24 hours, though it depended on whether we were in a hurry to get the trail open and groomed or not. Usually a full day was enough to drain it.
  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 306
    How often due freeze up in pipes occur? I have seen some whacky photos of lighting hay on fire around a pipe to thaw it.

    I know ski resorts have orifices at the end of lines to allow continual flow of water. I sometimes see areas in the woods with what it looks like an explosion of ice/snow all over trees from one of these orifices. Do all resorts/areas have these and what warrants them?

    Thanks!
  • lotsoskiinglotsoskiing expert
    Posts: 675
    We only froze pipes at extreme temps, and only if we had to shut down for a short while. Pretty unusual if you are paying attention (a common theme...). When we shut a gun down we'd take the air hose off the air hydrant and put the water hose on the air line and blow it and the gun out. That way things do not freeze solid when you left them on the hill. Very unusual for main pipes to freeze. We'd open the top water hydrant and let gravity do its thing to drain the system. Any freezes were in a couple of places where there were dips in the pipes and water collected toward the end of the draining time. You might be seeing (ice in woods) where their drain outlet was, I don't know. often a hydrant is opened at the bottom to allow for drain.
  • newmannewman advanced
    Posts: 191
    The bottom of a down line must stay flowing. Sometimes a gun, or a cracked valve where no gun is, to keep the water flowing. Some may drain right into the pond. Others could end anyplace. If the pressure isn't moving a freeze can begin. It will work its way uphill until discovered and corrected.
  • newpylongnewpylong expert
    Posts: 531
    Freeze ups on the pipes themselves are uncommon but can happen - usually at a sag without a drain plug or if the pumps stopped and the lines were not drained.

    Discharge valves can either be back in the pump house (the best setup) or at the end of the line somewhere. The colder it is the more water you let discharge to reduce risk of freezing. Also the dicharge valve provides the back pressure you need to keep the lines charged ie at the right PSI. If you did not restrict it the pressure would never climb.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,745
    At a previous area at which I worked in the early 90s, there was a major freeze up in the snowmaking water pipes. Repeated attempts to thaw the pipes with those torches and electric heater coils failed.  A combination of waiting for mother nature and cutting out sections of pipe finally did it.  I heard from the GM/owner that it was expensive and they lost many key days of snowmaking.  The following quote (attruted to the GM) which was passed on to me, "My head of snowmaking was too stupid to realize that water freezes at 32."  I do not remember if firings followed.

    More questions: After the water is turned off and the pipes backdrained is the valve left open so that the stem backdrains?
    Some one mentioned fan guns clogging due to blow-back.  How strong do the winds have to be for that to happen?
    What are the key parts of fan guns that need routine maintenance and how often?  
    Is routine maintenance so expensive that a financially challenged ski area would defer it?
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37

    At a previous area at which I worked in the early 90s, there was a major freeze up in the snowmaking water pipes. Repeated attempts to thaw the pipes with those torches and electric heater coils failed.  A combination of waiting for mother nature and cutting out sections of pipe finally did it.  I heard from the GM/owner that it was expensive and they lost many key days of snowmaking.  The following quote (attruted to the GM) which was passed on to me, "My head of snowmaking was too stupid to realize that water freezes at 32."  I do not remember if firings followed.


    More questions: After the water is turned off and the pipes backdrained is the valve left open so that the stem backdrains?
    Some one mentioned fan guns clogging due to blow-back.  How strong do the winds have to be for that to happen?
    What are the key parts of fan guns that need routine maintenance and how often?  
    Is routine maintenance so expensive that a financially challenged ski area would defer it?
    If you have a strong gust of wind that blows back on the gun and you're runnin 2-4 banks on a polecat the whole thing will freeze up. If there's a slight wind blowing back on it, the screen on the back of the fan collects snow. Depending on how bad it is, all I normally do is kill the fan for 5 seconds and give the screen a good wack. Then turn it back on it's it's all good!

  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,745
    lysikjake said:

    At a previous area at which I worked in the early 90s, there was a major freeze up in the snowmaking water pipes. Repeated attempts to thaw the pipes with those torches and electric heater coils failed.  A combination of waiting for mother nature and cutting out sections of pipe finally did it.  I heard from the GM/owner that it was expensive and they lost many key days of snowmaking.  The following quote (attruted to the GM) which was passed on to me, "My head of snowmaking was too stupid to realize that water freezes at 32."  I do not remember if firings followed.


    More questions: After the water is turned off and the pipes backdrained is the valve left open so that the stem backdrains?
    Some one mentioned fan guns clogging due to blow-back.  How strong do the winds have to be for that to happen?
    What are the key parts of fan guns that need routine maintenance and how often?  
    Is routine maintenance so expensive that a financially challenged ski area would defer it?
    If you have a strong gust of wind that blows back on the gun and you're runnin 2-4 banks on a polecat the whole thing will freeze up. If there's a slight wind blowing back on it, the screen on the back of the fan collects snow. Depending on how bad it is, all I normally do is kill the fan for 5 seconds and give the screen a good wack. Then turn it back on it's it's all good!

    How often do you have inspect each gun to be sure that the blow-back problem doesn't occur?  

  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37

    lysikjake said:

    At a previous area at which I worked in the early 90s, there was a major freeze up in the snowmaking water pipes. Repeated attempts to thaw the pipes with those torches and electric heater coils failed.  A combination of waiting for mother nature and cutting out sections of pipe finally did it.  I heard from the GM/owner that it was expensive and they lost many key days of snowmaking.  The following quote (attruted to the GM) which was passed on to me, "My head of snowmaking was too stupid to realize that water freezes at 32."  I do not remember if firings followed.


    More questions: After the water is turned off and the pipes backdrained is the valve left open so that the stem backdrains?
    Some one mentioned fan guns clogging due to blow-back.  How strong do the winds have to be for that to happen?
    What are the key parts of fan guns that need routine maintenance and how often?  
    Is routine maintenance so expensive that a financially challenged ski area would defer it?
    If you have a strong gust of wind that blows back on the gun and you're runnin 2-4 banks on a polecat the whole thing will freeze up. If there's a slight wind blowing back on it, the screen on the back of the fan collects snow. Depending on how bad it is, all I normally do is kill the fan for 5 seconds and give the screen a good wack. Then turn it back on it's it's all good!

    How often do you have inspect each gun to be sure that the blow-back problem doesn't occur?  

    Every gun run. So roughly anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.
  • NJSkiNJSki advanced
    Posts: 274
    What will the next leap in snowmaking technology be?
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37
    NJSki said:

    What will the next leap in snowmaking technology be?

    Something that requires no compressed air that can still make decent snow in borderline temps.
  • ME2VTskierME2VTskier intermediate
    Posts: 93
    lysikjake said:

    NJSki said:

    What will the next leap in snowmaking technology be?

    Something that requires no compressed air that can still make decent snow in borderline temps.
    http://www.nivis.it/en/products/ecostick.html
  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 306
    The past two weekends Stowe has noted: "All snow guns will be turned off this morning as we prepare for another weekend free of snowmaking on the slopes." Is this something other resorts have done, or is it more about getting that base down whenever possible/needed?
  • ski_itski_it expert
    Posts: 1,687
    I think they say that because while we love snow we hate skiing next to snow guns. And the tourists looking up at the Mtn. seeing them guns a blazing may head for the Alchemist instead.
    ISNE-I Skied New England | NESAP-the New England Ski Area Project | SOSA-Saving Our Ski Areas - Location SW of Boston MA
  • DrJeffDrJeff advanced
    Posts: 284
    Also depends on how the Mtn views their current base depths vs desired base depths and realistically how favorable for the few weeks before typical end of snowmaking operations after Presidents Week the current weather window is, then they may choose not to make snow during the typically busier weekend days are..

    Frankly, looking out the window of my condo at Mount Snow right now, they're hammering some of the core trails with fan guns now, and while at Stratton today, they were doing the same thing in core areas in the favorable temps!!

    The reality is the industry these days has way more quality data about snowmaking efficiencies and as such they use that data at times (especially when snow surface conditions are good overall) to make more volume of snow, for less cost in less time than ever before, especially when it's for Spring operations base depths
  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 306
    DrJeff said:

    Also depends on how the Mtn views their current base depths vs desired base depths and realistically how favorable for the few weeks before typical end of snowmaking operations after Presidents Week the current weather window is, then they may choose not to make snow during the typically busier weekend days are..

    Frankly, looking out the window of my condo at Mount Snow right now, they're hammering some of the core trails with fan guns now, and while at Stratton today, they were doing the same thing in core areas in the favorable temps!!

    The reality is the industry these days has way more quality data about snowmaking efficiencies and as such they use that data at times (especially when snow surface conditions are good overall) to make more volume of snow, for less cost in less time than ever before, especially when it's for Spring operations base depths

    Efficiency Vermont has been busy working with Vermont ski resort to use sub metered data, and weather analytics to increase efficiencies based on historical production data.
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37
    It's a real bummer watching them strip all the old air water guns off the slopes. Ever gun has its use. They aren't junk!
  • newpylongnewpylong expert
    Posts: 531
    Yeah and don't let the marketing / PR hype fool people. When they say they scrapped all their old guns they're lying. Everyone keeps a select few (or a ton for K and others) around for special applications.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,745
    newpylong said:

    Yeah and don't let the marketing / PR hype fool people. When they say they scrapped all their old guns they're lying. Everyone keeps a select few (or a ton for K and others) around for special applications.

    My sense is that what was done in VT with respect to hi-efficiency snowguns, is similar to what the Feds did with gas guzzlers some years ago.  Sure the guns (cars) work, but at what ecological cost?
  • mtsnow123mtsnow123 advanced
    Posts: 306
    lysikjake said:

    It's a real bummer watching them strip all the old air water guns off the slopes. Ever gun has its use. They aren't junk!

    They get to be donated to people like me for nice garden ornaments. I always get asked what it is and people can never guess its purpose or lack thereof.
  • lysikjakelysikjake intermediate
    Posts: 37
    mtsnow123 said:

    lysikjake said:

    It's a real bummer watching them strip all the old air water guns off the slopes. Ever gun has its use. They aren't junk!

    They get to be donated to people like me for nice garden ornaments. I always get asked what it is and people can never guess its purpose or lack thereof.
    They still make good snow. They aren't bad guns!
Sign In or Register to comment.