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Saturday, August 29, 2015 4:01 PM
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Snowmaking Myths Busted

2013/14 Winter The reality is that Blue Mountain is situated on the shores of Georgian Bay and nestled into the Niagara Escarpment. Although this area of the province is stunningly beautiful, we are working within a very unique and unpredictable micro-climate due to the influences of the region. With that, weather conditions can vary drastically within just a few kilometres.

Blue Mountain uses thirteen pumps to push water up the hill at a maximum rate of 13 000 Gallons Per Minute (GPM) from 2 reservoirs fed by Georgian Bay.

To help our water freeze, we have 420 tower guns, which allow the water droplets to fall further in the air than the traditional “sled” gun allows. The droplets freeze into “flakes” before hitting the ground.

Myth #1 – We can blow snow as soon as thermometer hits O° C, or when there is snow on the ground in Collingwood.

First let’s start with the basics. Man-made snow is created when water is pumped into one of three varieties of very specialized guns, sled guns, high temperature fixed towers or HKD guns. Water flowing past a jet of pressurized air is atomized, cooled and projected onto the hill. Like natural snow, these frozen particles fall and collect on the ground.

Now, provided that many other factors are in line, that magical temperature of -6ºC that we all interpret as gospel is actually the ideal temperature that allows this reaction to occur. While the temperature is a huge factor in this process, the humidity, wind speed and direction, air pressure, type of gun, management of snow and man power are also influential on our ability to blow snow.

All factors combined we are ready to roll, but not without the help of some very key on to find out more.

Myth #2 – Snowmaking is completely controlled by a highly specialized computer automated system. It can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch. Snowmakers can be replaced by technology.

Now, this is certainly not the case. Snowmaking is, simply put, a combination of art/science/strategy and people. Our snowmaking operation is called the most sophisticated system in Canada for a reason – the minds behind it are brilliant!

Although Blue Mountain’s valve system was developed by our very own Dan Skelton and partner Jamie Russell, and is remotely controlled, there are hours of preparation, quality control checks and strategizing for optimal coverage and product performance which is handled by our Snowmaking Team, led by Harry Cummings. Snowmaking towers on the mountain can be turned on and off with the system developed by Dan and Jamie, however, the opportunity to take advantage of very small snowmaking weather windows has yet to be taken over by technology and still heavily depends on human beings to make the calls. Although our system has evolved over 20-25 years, we are no where near the point of technology replacing people.

Myth #3 – The guns blow snow onto the hill in massive quantities… that means we can turn the guns off during the day so that skiers and snowboarders don’t get annoyed.

Our reliance on snowmaking to provide early season skiing is absolute. Our unique lake affected micro-climate, highly variable early season temperatures, combined with the need to rapidly develop a snow base adequate to meet the demands of skiers and groomers, force us to make snow during operating hours. And did I mention the January thaw? That means that when we finally have the weather, temperature, air pressure, wind direction, humidity and so on, we need to take advantage of every early season opportunity and blow snow like mad until it changes. Sorry everyone, but the guns can’t just come on at night and be turned off in the morning. If only it were that simple!

Myth #4 – Snowmaking is simple.

Hopefully this point has been made clear. Our snowmaking operation is far from simple. It is a clean, pristine, highly specialized and well oiled engine. Combine the efforts and talent of our current 10 person snowmaking team and you have over 100 years of experience. This winter’s newest enhancement to the system is the addition of a new 1000 gallon/minute snowmaking pump bringing Blue Mountain Resort’s total snowmaking capacity to 13,000 gallons of snow per minute. Accelerating production, Blue Mountain also added 18 new snow blowing towers located on Smart Alec, the resort’s central ski and snowboard run.

So there you have it - the condensed version of Snowmaking at Blue Mountain. Next time you are out enjoying the slopes take a look around you and think twice before telling your friends that snowmaking is simple.

And if you are wondering when all of the factors might be in line, you can check out our web cams for daily updates and be sure to stay in touch with Weather and Snow Conditions at Blue Mountain.

© Blue Mountain Resort 108 Jozo Weider Blvd., Blue Mountains, Ontario Canada L9Y 3Z2
Blue Mountain Ski Resort, the largest mountain resort in Ontario, Canada. Perfect for your snowboarding and skiing holidays. Located near Collingwood, a 90-minute drive from Toronto. Learn about the mountain and Blue Mountain Village, book your accommodations and ski or golf vacation packages right here.