Snow Making in Steamboat!

The temperatures are dropping as we all eagerly await for the resort to open up here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  Early November always tends to welcome in the cold temperatures, but the precipitation itself can sometimes be less then present. However big of a problem this may seem as most resorts will always open on time, technology has its ways to prevent what should seem as a postponed opening day.  Not here in Steamboat, and most likely, not anywhere else.  The technology of snowmaking has made all this possible and will always ensure us that no matter where we are or whether we are victims of “El Nino” or “La Nina”, there will always be snow on opening day.

Snowmaking itself was thought of in Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel in 1950, landing it in the history of skiing as the first resort to use snowmaking technology.  The technology itself is pretty simple, but the energy required to put it into motion is extraordinary, making it quite expensive.  Because of the price tag, it’s used sparingly in most places, usually just to get that much needed base for opening day, but you will also find it in use at indoor ski resorts where a climate is in a controlled state.  

There always seems to be rumors about how environmentally unsound the process is and that it puts unnatural molecules into the snow particles that harm the ecosystem.  Although the process itself is not the most energy efficient, the proteins that are sometimes added, and thought to be toxic, are actually all biodegradable particles that are both organic and inorganic and are harmless.  

The process starts with snow guns, which use water and pressurized air to shoot out snow.  The resort is actually piped, connecting pump houses to different ski runs, and ultimately to a water source, such as a reservoir or river.  Most resorts add a nuclei to the process to ensure as much water as possible is turned to snow.  Like noted before, these proteins are non-toxic and simply just help quicken the process of shaping the water molecules into ice crystals.   The protein also helps to allow ice crystals to form at higher temperatures so that the water droplets form crystals and stay crystals before hitting the ground.  

As much as we all love an early season storm or two to open the season with Mother Nature’s infamous powder, we are not always so lucky.  And when we come across those opening days of not a cloud in the sky, at least we will hear the buzz of the snow guns in the distance, ensuring at least a run or two for us to enjoy.  Only a couple weeks until opening day here in Steamboat, so get your skis tuned and prepare yourself for another amazing winter in the Rockies. Have fun, be safe and enjoy every bit of snow, whether its from the sky’s above you or the snow guns behind you!

Tags: snowmaking

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