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Snow Making Technology Saves the Season at Sierra Resorts

Snow makers rescue big Sierra resorts as drought bakes smaller ones - San Jose Mercury News

Stashed in: Snow!, Olympics, Winter Sports, Skiing/Boarding

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"If it wasn't for snow making, we probably wouldn't be open," said Barrett Burghard, head snow maker at Heavenly Ski Resort, who is propping up the beleaguered mountain economy with his vast computer-driven complex of snow guns, pumps, compressors, pipes, hydrants, nozzles and miles of hoses.

As the eastern sky turns pink with dawn's rising sun, his 165-gun system performs alchemy, mixing massive drafts of water, air and electricity to prepare 14 miles of bare ski runs for thousands of visitors. Every night, snowcat crews push piles of the precious product back up the slopes.

Machines can't replicate a natural snowflake, a unique aggregation of ice crystals that build slowly during a long dreamy descent from the clouds. They make small round pellets.

And snow is expensive to make, requiring water and power. A gun uses 50 gallons of water a minute, or 3,000 gallons an hour. Compressor pumps, rated at 1,750 horsepower, produce 9,000 cubic feet of air per minute.

Now high-tech innovations increase the surface area of each droplet, exposing it to more cold air. Sensors read the weather to automatically adapt the guns' air-water mix. Programmable logic controllers support pump houses, and a network of wires, fiber optic cables and Wi-Fi links sends information up and down the mountain. Equipment is more efficient.

Isn't it an awesome though that we have technology to make snow? I mean, wow!

Cool!  I wonder if this technology will need to be used in Sochi!

Almost certainly -- it's practically springtime there right now!

Vancouver Olympics could have used it for the events in town, I think they had to truck snow in.  Sochi is reporting good natural snow, with a freshening up coming in right before the Olympics start.

2014 Winter Olympics Games to Open With Ample Snow, Cold

I think some areas get good snow every year, like the range could be 300 inches(bad year) vs 600 inches (good year), while some sketchy areas like the Sierras can be 21 inches(bad year) vs 400 inches (good Year).  21 inches of melting snow does not allow a ski resort to stay open.

400 inches of snow a year sounds like a lot!

I have only lived here for 7 years, but when we get good dumps, it's usually 2 feet+/storm!

Two feet is definitely a lot of snow!

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