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Snowmaking 101

Snowmaking 101

When nature doesn't cooperate by providing natural snow, our snowmakers take over, but it takes a lot more than just cool temperatures to fire up the snowguns.

What does it take to make snow?

Snowmaking is a complicated equation. It involves water supply, energy, technical machinery, optimal conditions, and a whole lot of manpower.

Snowmaking requires water.. and a lot of it! For instance, if you wanted to cover an acre with 1-foot of snow, one would need 175,000 gallons of water! With our improved snowmaking system, we are able to convert over 4,700 gallons-per-minute (or 282,000 gallons-per-hour) of water into snow, providing our riders with the best conditions possible!

Cold Temperatures
The second element snowmakers need to make snow is cool temperatures. While water can turn into snow crystals at 32°F (0°C), ideal snowmaking conditions call for temperatures 28°F or lower. The colder and drier the conditions, the more effective snowmaking becomes. Here at Massanutten, dawn is typically the coldest part of the day, but we may not start making snow unless we will have more than 1-hour of optimal conditions.

Low Humidity / Wet Bulb Temperatures
The wet bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be obtained by evaporating water into the air at a constant pressure, and is the most critical factor for snowmaking. That’s because the threshold temperature for snowmaking increases as humidity decreases. But, that also means that as humidity increases, temperatures need to be lower for snowmaking. The magic number for snow making is a 27° wet bulb temperature.

A Complex Snowmaking System
Our snowmaking system consists of air lines, water lines, electrical lines, water hydrants, and snow guns. Essentially, air and water is pumped from holding ponds up the mountain and mixed at the snow gun to produce snow. A nozzle then produces tiny water droplets which freeze as they fall through the air to produce machine-made snow (NOTE: There is nothing “artificial” about machine-made snow). Snow made in this manner is not a flake but a 3-dimensional snow “crystal” that has a much greater density than natural snow, making it perfect for building base depth!

Snowmakers & Groomers
Last, but certainly not least, it takes a dedicated team of snowmakers and groomers to produce the best conditions all season long. Our snowmaking crew is constantly hard at work, whether they are prepping for the next cold spell or hiking the trails in the middle of the night, adjusting the guns. Then, our grooming staff comes in to get the slopes looking and feeling like there is a nice, fresh coat of snow for you to ride the next day.

PLEASE NOTE: Even though we make snow whenever possible, once a “base” is put down and packed, it is not necessary to make snow every day to remain open. It takes longer than one might think for snow to melt away, even at well above freezing temperatures. That being said, you don’t need to find snow in your backyard to go skiing or snowboarding. We normally begin making snow in early to mid-December and remain open until early March, or as long as Mother Nature allows!

For more information about snowmaking check out the video below!

Want to see if we've started making snow yet? Check out the webcams and our snow conditions page.

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