West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort has spent $4 million during the past year to increase snowmaking capacity. As this article goes to press, the snow guns are firing as Snowshoe prepares for a November 21 opening.
Snowshoe receives an average of 180 inches of natural snowfall a year, but adds to this with aggressive snowmaking to extend the winter season to 150 days. Snowshoe’s snow machines can produce over 1,750 tons of snow per hour, or enough to cover three football fields with a foot of snow. Snowshoe’s snowmaking and grooming staff represents over 150 years of combined experience.
“Just give us temperatures under 32 degrees and we will produce the finest machine-made snow in the mid-Atlantic area,” boasts Ed Galford, Snowshoe’s Director of Ski Operations.
Snowshoe’s arsenal of snowmaking equipment includes both airless guns and “air plus water” guns. Airless units spray pressurized water through a nucleator, causing a chain reaction that turns water droplets into snow as the droplets enter the atmosphere through fans. “Air plus water” guns combine highly pressurized air and water in a mixing chamber, splitting the water molecules into super-fine particles which are propelled into the freezing air, crystallizing to become snow. Both rely on the fact that depressurization is an endothermic reaction: as pressurized water and air expand in the atmosphere, their temperature lowers. This is why ice forms on the outside of a propane tank as you use your grill.
As part of their improved snowmaking, Snowshoe has installed a separate snowmaking system on the popular Cupp Run. Snowshoe says this will allow the advanced Cupp Run trail to open earlier in the season.
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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