Mountains

snowmaking at the Peak

11/7/2019

With the cold temperatures coming in this weekend, we wanted to share a little background on snowmaking and Shawnee Peak’s approach. For an area our size, we believe we have a top tier system in North America!

Our on-mountain infrastructure consists of over 400 snowguns, the majority of which are low-e HKD tower snowguns. Each gun is at a hydrant of which there is a hosed connection for compressed air and pumped water. The Pine Slope and portions of the Main and West Slopes have semi-automated HKD klik hydrants which dramatically decreases the startup and shut down time of a tower gun. Additionally, we have a fleet of fan guns, of which generate their own air and run off of electricity.

Each snowgun has its own adjustable setting, to control the amount of water flow. Generally speaking, more water = more snow and colder temps = more water. Each gun model has different functionalities and settings, allowing us to produce different types of snow quality and depths.

The water is pumped through two pumphouses, low pressure from the lake pumphouse and high pressure leaving the base area pumphouse. We completely rebuilt our two pumphouses during Summer 2018, adding full automation and increased water flow. This fall, we replaced the feed line between the two pumphouses which is expected to further increase water flow. We’ve designed with room for excess capacity in the future. At the main pumphouse, we direct the water to a designated zone, depending on where we are making snow. We have miles and miles of snowmaking pipe on the mountain.

Our system will allow us to make snow on multiple trails in different parts of the mountain. The amount of time it takes to open a trial depends on the trail characteristics. Once we have enough snow to open, ideally we let the snow sit for 24+ hours before we groom.

The ideal conditions rarely exist but if one could dream – temperatures in the low teens, no wind, no cloud cover and low humidity. Every resort is different, but generally speaking we won’t fire up the system unless we see a favorable stretch of weather that will allow us to run for multiple hours. It is very inefficient to start-up and shut-down the system.

I mentioned water…well… it is fair to say we have one of the largest available water supplies of any ski area in the United States, however, early season can be a bit of a curse. Why, might you ask? The optimal temperature for snowmaking is one in which there is low humidity. Unfortunately, during those shifts before Moose Pond can freeze, there is excess humidity in the air due to the water temperatures being much warmer than the air temps, as much as 40 degrees in some cases. Kind of crazy, but it does impact our production!

The Shawnee Peak team is very proud of our system. We look forward to firing up for the 2019 – 2020 ski season in the near future! As always, check our social media pages for some pictures and updates!