I always knew that ski resorts made snow but I had no idea about the logistics behind this operation so I made it my mission this week to go and find out.
Snow making is fully underway up at Northstar California so I popped in for a cup of tea with Matt Reeder, the Snow Surfaces Manager, to find out what it was all about.
The science bitThe process of snowmaking basically entails changing water to ice crystals by forcing water and pressurized air out through a snow cannon. The water shoots out into the air and falls to the ground as man-made snow. The temperature needs to be 32° F or anything below and the ground temperature needs to be around 50° F to 60° F.
The cannonThe snow cannons are the huge mounted cones you see lining some of the slopes. The idea behind them is that droplets of water will fall into the fan air stream and propel out as snow. Some cannons internally mix the water and air and others mix externally. The lower the temperature the better snow the cannons will produce so with this in mind, our snowmakers up at Northstar usually work through the night.
has a crew of 26 snowmakers who work just on snowmaking until mid-January. Each snowmaker is kitted out with warm clothing but Reeder says exercise is the main way they keep warm on the cold nights.
"The easiest way to keep warm is just to keep moving. We do lots of walking." Reeder said.
Sometimes the snow crew work around the clock to provide great conditions up on the mountain, clocking in 12 hour days. What troopers they are!
Why do resorts make snow?Snowmaking gives Northstar a good base of snow so that the mountain can open as early as possible in the season. It also means the conditions last longer into spring so that we can live in the hope of skiing through to the end of April.
How the base looks so far?The night of Tuesday Nov.1 was great for snowmaking at Northstar. They covered 10 acres of land with a foot of snow. They intend on turning four million gallons of water into the white, beautiful, fluffy stuff before opening day, which is, may I point out, in just over two weeks. 16 days. 384 hours. 23,040 minutes. Not that I am counting or anything.
It's almost here!!