The arrival of December is accompanied by the arrival of arctic cold, and local ski resorts are putting the cold temperatures to good use. Last night, resorts throughout the region dusted off their snowguns and began dusting the slopes with a layer of white snow. In short measure, these slopes will be covered by skiers and snowboarders anxious to start the last winter season of the millennium.
Temperatures last night dipped well below freezing. In the mountains of West Virginia, the mercury dropped into single digits, failing to climb above the high teens on Tuesday. Snowshoe Mountain Resort has over 170 snow guns running around the clock, adding to the base depth on 7 open trails and preparing for additional trail openings this weekend. The snowmaking team at Canaan Valley Resort is also busy tending to their craft.
In the Panhandle of Maryland, Wisp Resort has initiated snowmaking operations. Pennsylvania resorts including Seven Springs, Ski Roundtop, Camelback, and Blue Mountain are also taking advantage of the cold to make snow.
What does it take to make snow? Low humidity and low temperatures are the most important ingredients in snowmaking, while low wind helps to keep the newly-made snow on the slopes. Most resorts rely on state-of-the-art snowmaking systems that mix compressed air with near-freezing water. As the water exits snow guns, it is mixed with the compressed air, which reacts by lowering the temperature of the water below freezing and crystallizing into snowflakes. Once piles of snow have been built across a slope, the grooming staff takes over and massages the snow into an even consistency, leaving behind strips of corduroy.
Snowmaking conditions couldn’t be better last night. But what does the future hold? Nighttime temperatures should remain cold through the end of the week, when milder temperatures are forecast to return to the region. Although snowmaking will come to an end by the weekend, many resorts are hoping to clock in with an opening date, or at least build up some piles of snow until the next snowmaking opportunity arrives.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
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