Snowmaking Allows Minnesota Ski Area to Extend the Season
When there's not enough snow for skiing or snowboarding, our ski resorts make plenty of it for all outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. Combining air and water to make snow is part science, part art, and always appreciated by Minnesota skiers and snowboarders, who wouldn't be able to enjoy their sports without it.
As soon as the temperature drops below 28 degrees, snowmakers are poised to begin covering the slopes of Minnesota ski areas with machine-made snow. This traditionally allows the ski areas to open by Thanksgiving or early December, have a reliable base throughout the season and stay open later into the spring.
There are several different types of snow guns, but the science behind them is the same. After the guns break water into small particles, the particles are cooled as they move rapidly through cold air, become nucleated and form snow crystals.
In many ways, machine-made snow is actually more desirable than the natural stuff for ski areas. Ten inches of natural snow, when packed, adds only about an inch to the snow base at a ski area, while 10 inches of machine-made snow adds about seven inches of base because it is denser and more durable. Machine-made snow packs down better, is easier to groom and also lasts longer.
Snowmakers always have their customers in mind, because they are usually skiers or snowboarders themselves. Early in the year, they're going for quantity, making wetter, denser snow to build up the base. Once open, they add a drier and lighter consistency on top of that base. After Minnesota ski areas build up a base of eight to 10 feet – and up to 20 feet for half-pipes and high-traffic areas – any natural snow is a bonus.
A deep, consistent base of machine-made snow allows Minnesota ski areas to stay open later in the spring. Many areas traditionally stay open until late March, while some are able to extend their season well into April because of deep snow bases.
--Information adapted from www.snowplaces.com