No Need for Natural Snow to Ski or Snowboard; The Six Major Ingredients for Snowmaking

Contact: Mary Jo Tarallo | | 202-431-6950


November 2016 - Natural snowfall may not be abundant in many parts of the country, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, but that doesn’t mean there is no snow on the slopes. Ski areas in the U.S. continue to focus more and more attention on their ability to make snow. Even resorts in Colorado, Utah and New England depend on their ability to make snow especially on beginner terrain.

The snowmaking process requires more than cold weather. According to experts at Liberty Mountain Resort, near Gettysburg, there are 6 key elements that need to be in place before we begin to make snow:

These are: Cold temperatures, Low humidity, Compressed Air, Water, Snow guns, and Snowmakers & Groomers

According to the resort’s web site, temperatures need to be at least 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the freezing point for water to turn into snow crystals, but ideal snowmaking conditions call for temperatures to be 28 degrees or lower. Something called a “wet bulb” a combination of the air temperature and humidity, sometimes allows the resort to make snow when the temperature is above 32 degrees.

"Machine-made snow is real snow,” said Mary Jo Tarallo, director of the snow sports industry’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard/Bring a Friend initiative. “It just comes out of snow guns instead of falling from the sky. Most areas make sure that their learning areas have plenty of snow thanks to powerful snow guns positioned on the slopes.

A substantial water source is crucial to snow making. Roundtop Mountain Resort, near Harrisburg, PA, is owned by the same parent company as Liberty. It has snowmaking ponds with a total capacity of over 35 million gallons! All of the machine made snow visible on its slopes started in Roundtop’s snowmaking ponds, according to Marketing Director Chris Dudding.

“Without snowmaking, skiing in our region would be impossible,” he said. “As long as we have cold weather, we are able to cover our slopes in high quality snow and provide a great experience for all abilities. This is especially important for new skiers and riders as a consistent snow surface makes learning much easier.”

Snowmaking doesn't consume water, rather it stores it as snow on the slopes, notes the Roundtop web site. The water used for snowmaking is surface water that is stored in the snowmaking ponds. The ponds fill up naturally from rainfall and snow-melt. At the end of the season, the snow melts and the water returns to the ponds.


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