Surely by now you know that Mother Nature does not bless the Quad-Cities with an excess of the fluffy white stuff that is needed for the fun we like to pursue in winter. One of the vital parts of any ski operation is “snowmaking”. Snowstar is a leader with its state-of-the-art snowmaking system. The snowmaking crew is at the heart of the process and we have the best, they love to make snow and lots of it.
Since the birth of snowmaking in the forties, technology has developed to a point where it has become feasible to produce quality snow when the temperatures drop down into the mid-twenties. Snow guns make snow by mixing water with air, breaking the water into small particles; cooling the water by causing them to move through cold air and then forming a nucleus, a tiny snow crystal.
Depending on the temperature and humidity, more water is added. The water is sprayed so finely that it clings to the snow crystal and forms a snowflake. At this point, an electric fan within the gun blows the mass of snowflakes onto the slopes. It is interesting to note that water can be cooled well below 32 degrees and still not freeze unless it is nucleated, thus the need for the tiny snow crystal to act as a nuclei.
Snowmaking becomes more productive as the humidity and temperature drop. Cold dry air is far better than cold moist air. As temperature and humidity rise, the amount of water needs to be decreased in order to create quality snow. The lower the humidity, the more snow a system can produce at a given temperature.
Why? Because evaporation furnishes a significant part of the cooling of water. So, the lower the humidity, the greater the evaporation, the quicker the cooling, the more snow you can make. Going from 85% humidity to 40% humidity can double the volume of snow you can make. Can we make lots of snow at 25 degrees? NO. We can make five times as much snow at 15 degrees than we can at 25 degrees.
As the temperature drops and/or the humidity drops the volume of snow continues to increase. So the colder and drier the air gets, the more snow we can make. We have continually expanded our snowmaking capacity year in, year out. Our goal is to produce the most snow, of the best quality in the shortest amount of time. This enables Snowstar to open more runs in less time and recover from a “January Thaw” as quickly as possible. This all means better skiing/snowboarding all season long.
We are often asked how much snow you can make in one night. As you have learned, many factors are involved including wind directions and speed. Snowmaking is an art and science, there is no easy answer to the question “How much snow can you make”. If Mother Nature can give us temps in the mid teens, we can operate at full capacity. At full capacity we have pump and gun capacity to utilize 100 gallons of water per minute per acre throughout the area. This translates into 6” of snow over the entire area in a 24 hour period. Three days of this and we have an excellent 18” base on all trails.
Here are some interesting facts about Snowstar’s Snowmaking System:
The main objective of snow grooming is to provide our guests with the best possible skiing and snowboarding experience.
These tasks include:
PLEASE NOTE: Terrain features may be encountered throughout the area. Such features may be moved and/or modified on a daily basis.
The NSAA (National Ski Areas Association) endorsed a system eliminating subjective ratings and all ski reports to carry the depth and type of base and surface conditions only. Actual conditions are given and the skier can make his or her own interpretation. Skiing conditions can change with weather and skier use. Ski carefully and in control at all times. Skiers and snowboarders must be responsible and be aware of the risky elements of the sport.
It is not necessary to be an expert in order to interpret a snow report, but you should be aware of the terminology and how to apply it. A ten-inch base can be as good as a twenty-four or forty-eight inch base if the temperature is well below freezing and has been for a day or so. However, if the temperature is on a rising trend, into the upper forty range or higher, and the base is less than eight to ten inches, skiing conditions can deteriorate accordingly. Therefore, the snow report should be analyzed with the temperatures, past, present, and future, in mind as well as the depth of base and surface conditions.
Surface conditions should also be considered. An inch or so of new snow coupled with freezing temperatures and good grooming will usually provide very good skiing conditions. A granular surface may range from somewhat slick conditions, before it is skied or groomed, to a loose, sugar crystal like surface that is very skiable. After an extended cold spell and build up of the ski base, the skiing can be very good even if the temperature shoots up into the forties and fifties during the day. In late winter these conditions are called “spring skiing” which means that there is plenty of snow. Daytime, above-freezing temperatures cause the surface to become granular, like rock salt and skiing can be from fair to good depending on the depth of the base and the previous night’s temperature.
Overnight temps in the low twenties will refreeze particles producing loose granular “snow”. A report that contains the wording “icy spot” should NOT be regarded as a clear indication that skiing is likely to be poor. Some of the best ski days may be accompanied by icy spots where skiers have repeatedly turned and scraped their skis across a particular spot on the slope causing the surface to ice-up.