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Who has the best terrain status from snowmaking in New England?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

The question comes up at times who has the best snowmaking system in New England.

There have also been several question about the best places to ski in New England during Christmas week or in early December.

 

The record breaking lack of natural snow, and generally balmy temperatures have provided a backdrop to truly evaluate snowmaking. Snowmaking and the willingness to use it is obviously the most critical factor in figuring out where to ski during the early season in NE.

 

I hope this settles a few debates, and perhaps helps some people plan trips over the next few weeks before natural snow has the potential to play a major factor in things. 

 

Resort            Percentage Open    Runs Available

Sunday River    24.44%            13 runs        15 miles open

Okemo              21.48               7 runs                       

Bretton Woods  24.19               7 runs            6 miles

Tremblant         17.71               6 runs

Killington           15.48               5 runs            8 miles 

Sugarloaf          11.88               5 runs            11 miles

Stowe               18.1                 4 runs

Loon                 26.23               4 runs            7 miles

Sugarbush        10.81              3 runs            7.2 miles

Stratton             9.28                 3 runs

Mt Snow            9.41                3 runs

Jay                    8.97                3 run

Smuggs           10.26                3 runs

Jay                   8.97                 3 run

Wildcat            14.58                2 runs

Cannon            8.42                 2 runs

Sunapee          7.58                  2 runs            2 miles

 

 

-Information was current as of the AM on Tuesday Dec 22nd

-Percentage is based upon the number of trails open and the max advertised but he ski area.

-Miles open is based on advertised information in the daily trail report.

-Runs available takes into consideration how many unique routes are available top to bottom for a chair lift, without generally repeating a trail or large trail segment. It gives an idea of true variety not just trail count or acreage.

 

Nothing in the data is too shocking, but it does prove some often debated questions. Boyne Resorts is obviously willing and capable of deploying their snowmaking infrastructure and provide a reliable early season product. In VT, while Killington is able to open early up on the North Ridge, Okemo seems to provide the most extensive skiing available from snowmaking. And even in poor weather, location still matters, as the further north you travel there is generally more available with the slightly lower temps that come with those locations.

post #2 of 13

Another way to find out which ski areas have good snowmaking is the annual SAM "I AM A SNOWMAKER" award.  SAM stands for Ski Area Management.  The contest is sponsored by HKD, one of the major snowmaking equipment companies.

 

New this year, the Award has been expanded to give props to six standout snowmaking crews from mountain resorts across North America. Each of the six nominated crews will be tasked with making a video that highlights why their crew is second only to Mother Nature. Teasers for these videos will be released throughout the snowmaking season. The full videos will be released together in March. The mountain resort community will vote on their favorite and the 2016 I AM a Snowmaker Award will be announced in early April. 

 

The six nominated crews for 2016 include Okemo, Stowe, and Sunday River in the northeast.  Past nominees from the northeast include Smuggs, Bromont, Cranmont, Loon, and Sugarloaf.  The 2015 winner was Smuggs.  I think Loon was the winner for 2014.

post #3 of 13

Percent open doesn't tell you everything though. How deep are those trails buried? Does Mountain Ops bury it deep, or do they blow a "skin" and move on to the next trail so they can get more terrain open. Quality vs. quantity.

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

I am not sure if a 6 inch skin vs a major 18 inch base matters much in this situation.

 

With our weather this December if all you were trying to do was get away with the minimum in order to open, you probably failed and had everything melt and closed for a period of time. Late season depth matters in order to stretch out the Spring for as long as needed, but right now not yet.

 

The big issue early season is open terrain...period. Obviously the percentages can be deceptive. That is why I wanted to include the runs and miles open as well. I think those are a more accurate figure any time of year.

post #5 of 13

Central,

 

Thanks for  the info. Its kind of petty to diesect your info, in my opinion, you weren't paid to to this and you are just being a good person and sharing. Through my experience as a life long New England day tripper, you get to know who does a good job with the manmade and who is on a budget. I skied Bretton Woods last week and can confirm your info and can also report the snow depth on their open terrain is very good, around 12" which keeps the dirt from getting mixed in with the snow. They had some trails closed that had cover on them, but a lot of bare spots. I applaud their management of the mtn.

 

Their trails are very wide, and they aren't covered edge to edge with snow, there is bare grass on the far side of the trail from the snow  guns. I was  skiing behind some teenagers with twin tips and they decided to try "grass skiing" for a short distance by skiing off the snow pack, down the grass for a  bit and then back onto the snowpack. It looked like fun, but since I didn't have my twin tips on, I decided to stay on the snow pack. You make do with what you have.

post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by CentralVT08 View Post
 

I am not sure if a 6 inch skin vs a major 18 inch base matters much in this situation.

 

With our weather this December if all you were trying to do was get away with the minimum in order to open, you probably failed and had everything melt and closed for a period of time. Late season depth matters in order to stretch out the Spring for as long as needed, but right now not yet.

 

The big issue early season is open terrain...period. Obviously the percentages can be deceptive. That is why I wanted to include the runs and miles open as well. I think those are a more accurate figure any time of year.

I'm with Epic, the weather this season has favored a strategy of focusing on limited terrain and getting good depth.  You sort of confirm that when you point out that if a resort did try to open up more terrain with less snowpack, they probably had to close those trails.

 

I will add, kudos to all of the snowmaking teams that have allowed their mountains to open in the East.  This season more than usual we owe our turns to them.

post #7 of 13

A statistic that I never see is how much actual firepower a resort has. A lot claim 100% snow-making coverage but how much uphill air/water capacity can they put on the hill at any one time. Yea they have guns on every trial but the only can run X% at any one time.

Anyone know how they rate this?

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Dog View Post
 

A statistic that I never see is how much actual firepower a resort has. A lot claim 100% snow-making coverage but how much uphill air/water capacity can they put on the hill at any one time. Yea they have guns on every trial but the only can run X% at any one time.

Anyone know how they rate this?


There are a LOT of variables when it comes to snowmaking infrastructure.  Water availability, pumping capability, size and type of snow guns, percentage of automated guns that are in fixed positions vs other guns that must to moved and started/stopped/adjusted manually are the ones I can think of right off.  Did some reading on the subject a few months ago.

 

At my home hill, there is only 75 acres to cover.  Lots of money spent on upgrades to the equipment in the last 4-5 years.  Same water sources.  But to expand terrain, would need another water source.  The difference in what Massanutten can do in 3-4 days is very noticeable.  An hour away, Wintergreen built a tank to hold 5 million gallons of water to supplement the surface water sources.

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Dog View Post
 

A statistic that I never see is how much actual firepower a resort has. A lot claim 100% snow-making coverage but how much uphill air/water capacity can they put on the hill at any one time. Yea they have guns on every trial but the only can run X% at any one time.

Anyone know how they rate this?


It would be hard to answer that because how many guns you can operate at once depends on weather. When it is colder you need less air so you can run more guns. One statistic wolud be how many gallons per minute you can pump. That might or might not be your limiting factor. How much air can you push in cubic feet per minute. That could be everything, or not so much depending on how many fan guns you have and how efficient your other guns are. Older land frames could take 100 times as much air as the newest tower guns. How many acre feet of water is in your snowmaking pond and can you pull from a river to refill it, or are you done when it's empty? Automation helps a lot too. Older manual guns could take 6 hrs to turn on and 6 hours to turn off where automated ones can go from zero to 60 in 30 minutes. If you have only a 12-hour run of cold weather, that could be the difference between making snow and not.

 

This has some actual numbers

post #10 of 13

This video about snowmaking at Crotched from 2012 is a good intro to the latest snowmaking technology.

 

post #11 of 13

This article on the Butternut website describes different types of snow guns, why different types are used - and when - and all of the other massive components (compressors, pumps) that comprise their snowmaking system.  Includes some numbers.

 

http://www.skibutternut.com/mountain/mountain-info/snowmaking/

"Seven Large Diesel powered air compressors deliver 14,400/cfm (cubic feet per minute) of air at 100 to 150/psi (pounds per square inch), through miles of snowmaking air lines that run up every one of our slopes and trails. Another set of pipes is used to pump 5,200 gpm (gallons per minute) of water up the mountain. Ski Butternut, as noted previously, drastically increased its ability to pump water uphill in the fall of 2007, again in 2011 (more than doubling its previous pumping capacity) and we added 2 new pumps and another 1600GPM in the summer of 2012. The water is drawn from one of two special holding ponds located on Ski Butternut property. The pumps that push the water and the compressors that compress and move the high-pressure air use a lot of electricity. Snowmaking, therefore, is a very - very - very expensive enterprise."

post #12 of 13

Here in the West water capacity is usually the limiting factor.  The Big Bear areas have a lake as water source and to my knowledge it has never been restricted for snowmaking.   Mammoth has a huge reservoir and I saw an impressive amount of snow made there during the bone dry December of 2011.  So I was puzzled this Dec. 9 to see some rough coverage on a few lower runs and also not to see snowmaking used to open a second base area for Thanksgiving, resulting in traffic gridlock that weekend.  This was despite 59 inches natural snow in November.  So I suspected the 4 year drought had affected Mammoth's water supply in some way.  I inquired and found that was indeed the case.  That reservoir is normally recharged from wells 3x during the early season, but with the drought the recharge process is currently very slow.  This forced Mammoth to be very selective on where to use its snowmaking in late November/early December.   After 52 inches snow in the last two weeks, snowmaking at Mammoth may no longer be necessary in 2015-16.

post #13 of 13

Before it was clear how warm Nov and Dec would be, Wildcat in NH fired up the snow guns during a cold spell in Oct 2015.  They made a video showing the changes over 3 days.  The last part of the footage was clearly taken by a drone.  Wildcat upgraded the snowmaking system in significant ways in recent years after ownership changed.  The goal was to be able to open top-to-bottom as early as possible.  Last season Wildcat was open in early Dec.  The new polecats are very, very quiet.  Quite a few along the long green from the summit.

 

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