This past summer we invested $5 million in snowmaking equipment, including 29 new SMI SuperPuma snow guns and 5 V2 Viking wand guns. This is part of the resort’s constant commitment to improving the guest experience. Mother Nature typically calls the shots around here but we now have the ability to make our own snow when temps allow, putting us more in control of setting projected opening dates and providing good coverage in areas that are usually that last to fill in.
Unfortunately, snowmaking isn’t a cure-all for unfavorable ski conditions. The weather has to be just right, otherwise the guns won’t produce snow or they will produce very little of it. Something that makes our SMI SuperPuma snowguns so special is that much of our system is computerized. Once the conditions on the mountain reach ideal snowmaking temperatures and humidity levels, our snowmaking system automatically fires up the snowguns, and fine tunes each individual gun’s setting based on the conditions at each gun. This means we can have the entire computerized system up and making snow in less than an hour.
The final touch in the snowmaking process is our staff! Our snowmakers and groomers are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be on the mountain, taking advantage of ideal conditions the moment they arrive. They work all night to prepare the mountain for you to enjoy. Even when we don’t get to make snow on a certain night, the grooming staff will be hard at work all night to get the slopes looking good.
Machine made snow is more durable than natural snow, and is actually better for getting a great snow base here at Crystal! Natural snowflakes have 6 arms, or dendrites that spread away from the flake’s core, and create the symmetrical crystals that make them so pretty-but also makes them so fragile! Machine made snow on the other hand is a simple ball of snow-no arms to break off and get compacted down, thus being more durable for creating and maintaining a base.
The Coverage Area
The coverage area is roughly 30,000 square feet per gun. The total coverage by our current snowmaking system is 70 acres (roughly 53 football fields) and includes the Meadow, Quicksilver, Tinkerbell, Broadway and Upper Arwine’s.
With the right temperatures, between two to three feet of snow can be made with each gun in a 24-hour period.
Phases two and three include extending snowmaking up Queens Run to the top of the Forest Queen Express lift and and up Lucky Shot to the summit, providing top-to-bottom coverage for all ability levels.
The Snow Guns
SMI’s SmartSnow Automation & Control software is flexible and customizable and offers proven communication options, accurate weather measurement, supporting equipment and instrumentation, integrated auxiliary equipment, and service that is second to none.
The Puma snowmaker was designed to interface with automation and control software for optimum performance in any snowmaking weather, especially in marginal conditions. The Puma is equipped with an onboard aspirated weather station, air and water pressure monitoring, and automated flow control. The small flow steps deliver a smooth snowmaking curve, fine-tuning the water volume, air pressure and nucleation to best suit the existing conditions.Each unit employs a convenient touch-screen panel at eye level for manual control, and the Puma can be configured to communicate with a central computer via hard wire or by radio, using either central or distributed intelligence.
In addition, operators can raise and lower the barrel or adjust the oscillation arc up to 359° on any number of machines from a central command station, delivering pinpoint control with minimal labor. The result is better snow distribution and reduced man-hours needed for grooming.
There are three vital ingredients in snowmaking: water, compressed air and proper outside temperature. Snowmaking can begin at 28 degrees if the humidity is low, but the quantity of snow produced in those conditions is minimal. At 26 degrees and lower, the snowmaking really starts to get going and one to several inches can be produced each hour. The colder the conditions get, the more snow the guns can turn out. The outside air temperature is a rough guide for determining when snowmaking can begin. As temperatures drop from the upper 20s, the snowmaking team will start using test towers to monitor the conditions. When the team determines that the time is right, they will start up the equipment and begin making snow.
Once the system has been fired up, it’s time to start making some snow! The process begins with the key ingredient: water. The water used for snowmaking is collected in a pond and is pumped through miles of underground piping. The water is then delivered through a frost-free hydrant to the snow gun, where it is combined with compressed air and shot out of the gun as snow.