Outside with Charlie: Wanted: Snow

By From page A8 | January 08, 2014


With 2014 showing up right on time we’re all counting on more snow.

The last snow storm has faded into memory land while the next isn’t quite on the horizon yet.

What about the snow? Where is that stuff coming from if Mother Nature isn’t dropping it?

The ski resorts make it. As soon as conditions allow, the snow cannons — pretty amazing machines — are fired up. The enduring hope is that the storms will come in, close behind, and cover the man-made stuff.

Generally, snow making is done largely out of sight, at night. The temperatures have to be cold enough to allow the cannons to work their magic.

Snow cannons, or snow guns, are a staple of the industry, and cost quite a lot. Some of them use compressed air, some really big fans. They all use water that is under pressure. The water is sprayed into the air, where it changes to snow.

It takes around 75,000 gallons to make a 6-inch blanket of snow that covers an area about 200 x 200 feet. A snowmaking system can turn 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of water into snow every minute. That’s 30,000 to 60,000 gallons of water-into-snow every hour.

Most resorts that have extensive snowmaking systems have access to large quantities of water — either retention pools, lakes, or great wells.

Not everyone uses extensive systems. Some have what are called supplemental systems that are stationed to provide good coverage for certain areas.

Steve Hemphill, PR guy at Sierra-at-Tahoe, points out that although it’s been a slow start, there’s still good snow for skiers and boarders. Since their runs are mostly on north facing slopes, the snow is tending to stick around.

Hemphill said that the long range forecast for January is good. In the meantime, conditions for families are pretty decent. It’s easy to get there, with blue skies and mild temps, and learning to ski, or sharpening your skills, is really nice right now.

The economic impact of a good ski season for El Dorado County is huge so let’s hope snow is on its way.

A day on the slopes, even with early season conditions, is a good day. Get outside!

Charlie Ferris

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