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Snowmaking - Explained

Natural snow is the best kind of snow but when it comes to preparing most, if not all ski resorts, for the upcoming winter season, we turn to snowmaking to help fill the void.

Snow Guns

The function of a snow gun is to blow tiny water droplets into the air, let them freeze, and fall to the ground. There are two primary types of snow guns.

The first type of snow gun combines compressed air and water. The compressed air splits the water into tiny droplets, while also launching it high enough to allow for the droplets to freeze. 

The second type of snow gun combines a stream of water with an electric fan. Instead of compressed air, the electric fan blows the water into tiny droplets that freeze and fall to the ground.

Wet-Bulb Temperature

The best measure of snowmaking conditions is something called the wet-bulb temperature. This is the combination of the actual air temperature and the amount of moisture in the air. 

Normal Temperature + Humidity = Wet-Bulb Temperature

Snowmaking is most efficient when the wet-bulb temperature is well below freezing. However, snow can still be made when the temperature is near freezing as long as the air is very dry. 

Humidity (Key Ingredient)

Water droplets freeze more quickly when the air is dry and this is due to evaporation. This is called evaporational cooling, which takes heat from the surrounding air in order for the evaporation to occur.

We've all stepped out of the shower with a few droplets of water on our skin and felt a slight chill as you enter a dry room. This is evaporational cooling.

Example

32°F Temperature + 25% humidity = 22°F Wet-Bulb Temperature

This is well below freezing and plenty cold enough for efficient snowmaking.

Max, Ideal, & Min Wet-Bulb Temp for Snowmaking

Maximum = 27°F Wet-Bulb Temperature

Ideal = 20°F Wet-Bulb Temperature

Minimum = 14°F Wet-Bulb Temperature

Snowmakers & Groomers

Having the ideal snowmaking conditions is obviously important but the snow would go nowhere if the ski resorts didn't have a hardworking team of snowmakers and groomers.

Crews will typically work all night. Their shift will consist of monitoring and moving the snow guns, to moving and grooming the snow in preparation for the upcoming season.

Six Key Logistical Elements

1) Access to Water (Ponds, Rivers, & Streams)

2) Pumping Capacity (Gallons/Minute)

3) Cold Temperatures (Ideally, Sustained Cold Temps)

4) The Need to Make Snow (Open / Prepare Base Areas)

5) Automation (Automate Ideal Snowmaking Conditions)

6) Money (Labor & Electricity)


Download the OpenSnow app and stay tuned to our forecasts for the latest weather updates. 

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