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"Snowmaking Refresh" : to add a dusting of snow atop the groomed trails.

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I didn't realize resorts did this, I couldn't find any posts about this.  Evidentely Beaver Creek uses some of their fleet of snowmaking guns for the purpose of adding a dusting of snow on top of groomed.  If they do this on a regular basis just to improve riding quality and not so much for adding base, that is pretty cool.  I guess it would be fairly easy and not terribly expensive with automated fan guns.  Does anyone know what other resorts do this?

 

http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/18119913-113/colorado-ski-areas-improve-for-coming-season

post #2 of 21

I don't think many do and I usually give snow guns a pretty wide berth.  The density of man made is quite variable and it can be difficult to ski through at times.

 

They usually make whales and let it dry out before spreading it around.

post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmelton94 View Post
 

I didn't realize resorts did this, I couldn't find any posts about this.  Evidentely Beaver Creek uses some of their fleet of snowmaking guns for the purpose of adding a dusting of snow on top of groomed.  If they do this on a regular basis just to improve riding quality and not so much for adding base, that is pretty cool.  I guess it would be fairly easy and not terribly expensive with automated fan guns.  Does anyone know what other resorts do this?

 

http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/18119913-113/colorado-ski-areas-improve-for-coming-season

 

Honestly this feels like marketing BS- a way to add a distinction that doesn't actually exist.

 

I say this because in Colorado snowmaking is something that happens on a limited amount of terrain for a limited period of time.

 

In Colorado, resorts make snow in October (for early openers) November and early December. Snowmaking operations are usually wrapped by mid-December. Snowmaking infrastructure exists on only a portion of the mountain.

 

Snowmaking wraps up for several reasons. A big one is simply related to access to water, but another one is snow quality.

 

The vast majority of snowfall at Colorado ski areas is light, fluffy stuff with so little water content that you can't pack it into a snowball. When you groom it, you get a nice, soft, consistent snow surface- because the light, airy snow doesn't consolidate into hardpack. People fly in from all over the world to ski our soft groomed snow.

 

Despite advances, manmade snow has a lot more water. If you are spraying it over natural snow, you are adding to the water content- and when you then groom it, you are creating hardpack and ice. I can't imagine a Colorado ski area doing this- snowmaking is something you use to get terrain open and establish a nice solid hardpack layer underneath all the new fluffy snow that will come along.

 

So, if BC is blowing guns over groomed slopes, they would only be doing this in the early season when guns are operating. And they would probably only be doing it on slopes that consist of manmade snow, as once they get a base of natural stuff I can't imagine blowing wet snow over the top will do anything.

 

So, I'm forced to think that some marketing guy decided this would sound good and ran with it. 

post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 
 

Despite advances, manmade snow has a lot more water. If you are spraying it over natural snow, you are adding to the water content- and when you then groom it, you are creating hardpack and ice. I can't imagine a Colorado ski area doing this- snowmaking is something you use to get terrain open and establish a nice solid hardpack layer underneath all the new fluffy snow that will come along.

 

 

 

Actually, I think this is a strategic and economic choice, not a technical requirement.  On a cold day, I have skied through powder created by a snow gun.  But then someone noticed, came back, and adjusted the snow gun to create gunk again.

post #5 of 21

Good points AC!

post #6 of 21

BC the home to MASSIVE GROOMER FLEET.  They groom so much they have powder everywhere --- jus ask them.

 

Many East Coast ski areas run their snowmaking into Feb/March to compensate for the melting.  Conditions CAN be great if they dust the surface.  Otherwise maybe the ice is better. 

 

In the Higher resorts of Colorado, there is very little melting most of season.  They use snowmaking to get terrain open in the fall and shut down as early as possible letting mother nature take over providing a much better product.  Water for snowmaking is 'more expensive' in the West.

post #7 of 21
I agree with @anachronism. Here they only have man-made on some trails. They have limited water rights and are not going to be wasting them. Man-made snow ultimately produces hardpack. Western skiers can FEEL the difference between man-made snow and the real thing. Now if an section of trail lower on the mountain that gets a lot of traffic and was built up early season with man-made snow gets icy, then they might dress it up during the season if nature isn't helping, but depending on the base they're more likely to just till it a bit and groom it, because, well, they may need those water rights later to fill in bare spots if it's a bad season.

If someone in the west is making snow as part of their normal operating, then they've got snow problems. Could be due to altitude, aspect, seasonal weather, crowds, etc. But it's not considered an attractive feature to western skiers to be making snow.
post #8 of 21

Sun Peaks uses its limited snowmaking capacity to get a mid to late November limited opening that would otherwise only occur in early or sometimes mid December. Snow guns are usually shut off (not needed) by mid or late December.

 

One of the biggest benefit of the snowmaking at SP is that they are able to get the mid mountain Nancy Greene Race Centre open in early November before the mountain opens to the public for the winter. So junior race teams from across Canada show up, stay in the hotels, eat in restaurants etc. but most importantly get on the snow training well before the start of the ski season.

 

That said the biggest impact on early season skiing is not snowmaking, it is summer grooming. I was up at Sun Peaks this past August for one of their free Summer Concert Series and machine cutting of grass and weeds on several runs was in evidence as well as cutting small conifers and willows by crews with chain saws and clippers. Most stumps and rocks have been removed years ago. Summer grooming pays dividends every early season and then some in poor snow years and is something that I predict other ski resorts will eventually invest in.

post #9 of 21
The other reason and perhaps the main reason they shut things down is electricity demand charges. For big electricity customers, they are billed not only for the total energy they use (as you would in your home), but they are also billed on the peak power draw, even if they only use that peak power for 15 minutes. This charge is designed to recoup costs associated with the utility having to build and maintain the substantial infrastructure to allow the large amounts of electrical power draw.

There is a ski area around here that can draw over 8MW on snowmaking alone. Past January they wouldn't think of going anywhere near that unless there was a major snow shortfall emergency.
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 

I found a further explanation on BC's website, it does seem to be for real, now if only I could find a resort that did this on a mogul run:

 

White Carpet Snow. Snowmaking Refresh Project Expands for Winter 2015-2016
Beaver Creek’s unrivaled commitment to providing a world-class snow surface for skiers and snowboarders will further expand this season. Introduced on Gold Dust intermediate trail during 2014-15, the snowmaking refresh project avails the world’s most luxurious snow conditions to guests with opulent, perfect snow each day – for which a new, fresh layer of snow is dusted atop the perfectly-groomed trails. In addition to Gold Dust, which is equipped with 24 fully-automated fan guns, an additional 23 fully-automated fan guns will equip Red Tail and Centennial trails. Three mobile carriage fan guns will also be added to enhance the snowmaking refresh fleet. Home to the world’s most innovative snowmaking technology, Beaver Creek’s leading-edge snowmaking system encompasses 650 acres of terrain across the resort. White Carpet Snow is a technique synonymous with the Beaver Creek tenet of excellence and World Cup Mountain notoriety.

post #11 of 21

OH, YES, YAHOO!!!!!! :yahoo:

 

I'm really looking forward to fly 2,000 miles all the way out there to Beaver Creek so I can ski man made. Yeah, right.

If you buy that. I have quint little stone bridge in lower Manhattan for ya. Cheap. :cool

post #12 of 21
Yeah, it's no ad. I'm wondering if this is a reflection on the clientele or the snowfall? Skied there too many years ago to remember anything except cookies.
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmelton94 View Post
 

I didn't realize resorts did this, I couldn't find any posts about this.  Evidentely Beaver Creek uses some of their fleet of snowmaking guns for the purpose of adding a dusting of snow on top of groomed.  If they do this on a regular basis just to improve riding quality and not so much for adding base, that is pretty cool.  I guess it would be fairly easy and not terribly expensive with automated fan guns.  Does anyone know what other resorts do this?

 

http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/18119913-113/colorado-ski-areas-improve-for-coming-season

 

Snowbasin was definitely adding light layers of fresh atop groomed as late as February this year--I feel like I read an article about this, but of course now I can't find it. I did find an article that discusses this process at Sun Valley (same ownership): "Once the base is built, the snowmakers change the formula to make a drier, skiable snow, refreshing each slope every couple days with a silky coating of up to two inches of snow." Based in last season at Snowbasin, I'd say the fresh-made snow on the top made a significant improvement over those trails without.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

Despite advances, manmade snow has a lot more water. If you are spraying it over natural snow, you are adding to the water content- and when you then groom it, you are creating hardpack and ice. I can't imagine a Colorado ski area doing this- snowmaking is something you use to get terrain open and establish a nice solid hardpack layer underneath all the new fluffy snow that will come along.

 

So, if BC is blowing guns over groomed slopes, they would only be doing this in the early season when guns are operating. And they would probably only be doing it on slopes that consist of manmade snow, as once they get a base of natural stuff I can't imagine blowing wet snow over the top will do anything.

 

So, I'm forced to think that some marketing guy decided this would sound good and ran with it. 

 

I think there's some truth to this--in my experience, Snowbasin's snowmaking-built runs tend to feel icier than many of those at Powder Mountain despite similar altitude, weather, and exposure. So it seems like maybe a tradeoff between fresh-made powder-covered runs some of the time, and icy runs other times versus whatever nature provides. I'm not convinced one is necessarily better than the other, and it seems like a way for Snowbasin and Beaver Creek to differentiate themselves in two fairly crowded markets.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Man-made snow ultimately produces hardpack. Western skiers can FEEL the difference between man-made snow and the real thing....

If someone in the west is making snow as part of their normal operating, then they've got snow problems. Could be due to altitude, aspect, seasonal weather, crowds, etc. But it's not considered an attractive feature to western skiers to be making snow.

 

I think this opinion has been formed by older snowmaking technology: it really has improved, but many resorts still only have older facilities. I wouldn't say that the best man-made snow is as good as the best natural. But let's be honest: no resort gets the best possible natural snow all the time. Dry spells happen everywhere, and warm wet storms can drop heavy snow pretty much anywhere. I think as resorts adjust to the changing climate by investing in better, more modern snowmaking and snow maintenance, more and more Western skiers will come to view snowmaking as an important part of a resort's ability to guarantee them a good time.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KingGrump View Post
 

I'm really looking forward to fly 2,000 miles all the way out there to Beaver Creek so I can ski man made. Yeah, right.

If you buy that. I have quint little stone bridge in lower Manhattan for ya. Cheap. :cool

 

For skiers who can afford to book last-minute flights to chase storms, I agree. But I think a large majority of people who fly west to ski have to make plans pretty far in advance. And even at the most reliable resorts, dry spells occur, and if you pick any particular week there's almost bound to be some days in there without fresh powder. I think it makes a lot of sense to book a trip to the Salt Lake or Denver area, and plan on heading to Snowbasin or Beaver Creek if it hasn't snowed for a few days.
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by New2Utah View Post

 

For skiers who can afford to book last-minute flights to chase storms, I agree. But I think a large majority of people who fly west to ski have to make plans pretty far in advance. And even at the most reliable resorts, dry spells occur, and if you pick any particular week there's almost bound to be some days in there without fresh powder. I think it makes a lot of sense to book a trip to the Salt Lake or Denver area, and plan on heading to Snowbasin or Beaver Creek if it hasn't snowed for a few days.

 

I am not a storm chaser. Never have been, never will. I ski what ever is on the ground.

One of my favorite quotes from Bob Barnes - "There are good snow and there are snow that is good for you. Ski enough of the latter and they will become the former."

Not sure of the second part is from him or not, but that is what I firmly believe in.  

post #15 of 21

I really like a couple of inches of fresh,  on top of corduroy. I just don't see how they will get it uniform.

Plus once ten people go down, it's crud.    Kind of expensive to implement for just a few early risers, but maybe they will charge extra,  ala first tracks.

post #16 of 21

I've skied the Beav a bunch and I've never see this.  Maybe it's new for this season, but more likely it's just drivel from their marketing department.

 

As Shreadhead points out, a dusting on top of groomed would just turn into crud which is definitely not what the typical BC customer wants.  I highly doubt they are actually doing this.

post #17 of 21
I could see grooming mid day, but throwing fresh man-made (which to me is better churned into the real stuff) seems undesirable.
post #18 of 21

It must be late summer.  You all worry way too much about the minutiae.  Can you go skiing today? Great! Ski what ya got and be happy.

 

Me, I am going to go service snow guns and lifts next weekend and think about skiing - whatever ends up on the ground.

post #19 of 21

Water content of manmade snow can be calibrated. We had a tour of Sun Valley's snowmaking facilities during the 2010 annual meeting:

Quote  =  http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=8842:
Over the course of a ski season the average water content of manmade snow at Sun Valley is 18%, but it varies radically. Looking at daily records Dennis showed us a "base building" day of December 6 where the the snow was 56% water! But in February the snowmaking is used exclusively to top off an optimal skiing surface. The water content then is in the 8-10% range, same as the natural snow average for Intermountain ski areas. Snowmaking ceases at the end of February.

The Sun Valley locals refer to the mid-season snowmaking as "gunpowder" and do get out to ski the groomers at opening bell when the surface is at its best.

 

It's interesting Beaver Creek came up in this discussion, as we skied there Saturday of MLK last season:

Quote = http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11678:

Arrowhead has the lowest base at 7,400 feet so Cresta is a quite long cruiser to get there. Riding up the lift we noticed the snowmaking on Golden Bear. Karl Weatherly at Sun Valley had told me that mid-season snowmaking can be low water content “gunpowder,” so I figured that Beaver Creek might be doing the same. So we gave it a try.

 

I’m not sure I’ve taken pics of my tracks in fresh man-made before, which indeed skied like an inch of natural over the groomed subsurface.

 

Fresh manmade snow will never ski like the best of natural powder without the delicate dendrites that trap more air, but an inch or two over a groomer is quite similar to natural if the water content has been toned down as we were shown at Sun Valley and it seems likely from both the marketing and our experience that Beaver Creek is doing the same.  If you ever ski through a "whale" of manmade that has been created in early season for base  building, that's a very different animal: very thick and hard to make turns.

post #20 of 21

Due to the terrible weather, Squaw was making snow last season whenever they could, until quite late on the calendar.  They did it because their spring conditions were on the line.

post #21 of 21
Quote:
Due to the terrible weather, Squaw was making snow last season whenever they could, until quite late on the calendar.

They were making snow on Blackcomb in April to maintain access to the Excelerator chair.

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