One of the problems riders of the snow have is our dependence on winter producing adequate quantities of snow. Some winters resorts get plenty of snow and other winters it arrives late, meager, and leaves early. Luckily, those of us who engage in Alpine snow sports only require specific and limited snow coverage and it is practical for snow resorts to supplement natural snow cover with made snow.
In this we are fortunate, it is much harder for cross-country skiers and snowmobilers to have widespread and dependable snow. Ski jumping like Alpine skiing does not need snow cover over widespread areas so they too can enjoy the benefits of snow-making.
With snow-making resorts can open earlier, stay open later, create terrain parks, and alter the topography of their trails.
Making Snow — The Science
The science of snow-making is well established and the ingredients are:
- Pressurized air
No doubt you have seen the guns at the resorts and they are typically appear are about 3 feet (.9 meters) in diameter and about 4-5 feet long (1.2 – 1.5 meters) and usually have a fan on one end, a water supply line, an air compressor, and perhaps reservoirs for nucleation material. Nucleation materials is some sort of fine matter that water will form the snow crystals around.
Temperature and humidity must also be present in the correct levels for snow-making to occur. Snowmakers use wet-bulb temperature to gauge when to make snow. It is possible for resorts to make snow in above-freezing temperatures and it is also possible for resort to NOT be able to make snow in below freezing temperatures.
Making Snow — The Art
More like near blind guesswork than art. As you may have noted above snow-making is also heavily dependent on the weather with the mixture of cold and humidity being right. While the temperature is good at the moment the resort is snow-making conditions next week may take a wrong turn sending all of the newly made snow down the hill as water. There is no getting around that.