Winter's Best Kept Secret: World Class Snowmaking in Vermont
We all know there is no controlling Mother Nature which is why the #1 ski state in the East is pretty fortunate to have the world’s most extensive and efficient snowmaking systems. This season, Vermont resorts have made system improvements to increase coverage and decrease energy usage - all of which translates to more snow in less time, and top notch snow surfaces all season long.
Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo’s snowmakers were recently named finalists for HKD’s I Am a Snowmaker Award, presented to recognize outstanding snowmaking teams from across North America. After several years of major snowmaking improvements totaling more than $1 million, Okemo expanded its snowmaking system again, adding snowmaking on two trails at South Face. 98 percent of Okemo’s trails have snowmaking. In addition to 1,125 state-of-the-art, energy efficient HKD tower guns, Okemo utilizes hundreds of guns of varying types. It is the HKD SV series of guns, though, that make the biggest impression on skiers and riders – allowing Okemo to open more terrain early in the season and improving Okemo’s ability to recover more rapidly from unfavorable weather events.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort’s state-of-the-art snowmaking operations have been supplemented by a three-year 10 million dollar snowmaking expansion that was completed just prior to the 2015/16 ski and ride season. Totals for the 3 year project include: over 100,000 feet of new snowmaking pipe (almost 20 miles), 615 HKD SV10 tower guns, 150 Ratnik Baby X-2 land frames, 20 SMI Super PoleCat snow fan towers, 8 HKD Turbo snow fan towers and a new 3,000 gallon-per-minute booster pump house on Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak.
In addition to supplementing its already superlative snowmaking, the improvements allow Stowe to operate with greater energy efficiency. See the acclaimed video about Stowe’s snowmaking here.
Stratton Mountain Resort
New this season, Stratton’s snowmaking fleet gets a control system upgrade, allowing for optimized real-time energy use with goals for the most energy efficient snowmaking operation. If Mother Nature takes a break on winter, over 1,200 snow guns step in to save the day. Stratton’s snowmakers can cover Boston’s Fenway Park one-foot-deep in less than 20 minutes, and the entire 670 acres of Stratton Mountain one-foot-deep in less than a week. As Deron Clark proclaimed on Twitter, “Stratton has the best snowmaking and grooming team in Vermont!”
Killington boasts the most extensive and high-powered snowmaking system in New England, a huge factor that led to hosting the upcoming 2016 World Cup ski race over Thanksgiving weekend. Thanks to a team of dedicated snowmakers who perform miracles in the face of adverse weather and build a giant glacier atop Superstar every spring to stretch the ski season into summer, Killington is truly the Beast of the East.
Mount Snow Resort
This summer Mount Snow has been working away to rebuild valvehouses and install a planned 20,000 feet of new pipeline to help efficiently move water around the resort once the West Lake Snowmaking Project comes online in 2017. As for pure stats, Mount Snow’s snowmaking coverage is 80 percent, which is achieved using 917 snowguns, including 250 fan guns (more than any other resort in North America).
Jay Peak Resort
So the folks at Jay Peak are still of the mind that the 5,000 acres between their borders represent one massive terrain park, but they understand the need for focus. So this season the resort is increasing the snowmaking capacity to its LZ and Jug Handle parks by 60%, running a new waterline up the Interstate trail and installing 20 new guns along the Interstate. The expansion will not only allow Jay Peak parks to open sooner, but will also allow the resort to open learning terrain at its Tramside area earlier in the season.
Sugarbush offers snowmaking on 70% of its terrain; reserving the other 30% of terrain for natural snow conditions. The resort completed a five-year, $5 million snowmaking upgrade in 2014. Thanks to the purchase of low-energy snow guns including Snow Logic, HKD and Ratnik snowguns, Sugarbush has seen energy savings of close to 15%, while being able to make more, better quality snow in less time.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Smugglers’ Notch Resort has invested $5 million in snowmaking improvements over the last four winters (2012-2015). Installation of more than 400 high efficiency guns fully converted the fleet to high efficiency. This conversion helped to improve terrain coverage and quick refreshing of trails on terrain serving all ability levels. A snowmaking pipeline completed last year ensures optimal water availability while adhering to the resort’s own goals for environmental responsibility as well as state benchmarks for environmental management. The pipeline supports the resort’s plans to increase snowmaking coverage from 62 to 80 percent in future seasons.
Bromley Mountain Resort
Bromley’s snowmaking systems received major love over the last few seasons. Recent sizable upgrades include: trading in inefficient ground guns and replacing them with 75 brand new HKD SV10+ tower guns for 2014/15; and upgrading 50 SV10s already on the hill with SV10+ nozzles for 2015/16. Simply put, Bromley has the technology to produce the maximum amount of high quality snow using as little electricity as possible whenever the guns are on. With 85% coverage of skiable terrain (93% coverage if you don’t count woods trails), Bromley’s snowmaking team literally covers a lot of ground.
Bolton Valley starts making snow in November with a goal of getting the main mountain open in early December. The snowmakers work around the clock whenever the temps are right to lay down snow on Vista Peak and Timberline. A special focus is on the trails that are lit for night skiing so guests have a variety of trails to choose from for after the sun goes down.
Magic is expanding its snowmaking coverage under new ownership with a goal of covering 40% of its trails on both the East and West sides of the mountain which would be up from about 10% last season. New snow guns will be added to the fleet to create a wonderful mix of expertly groomed terrain accessible for all skier types while maintaining the unmatched feel and carve-ability of natural snow on many of the most difficult trails.
The Hermitage Club
Even amid a low natural snowfall season, last year the Hermitage Club provided skiers with outstanding conditions. The Club uses only best-in-class, state-of-the-art equipment, and can provide terrific terrain across more than 90% of the ski area.
Suicide Six Ski Area/Woodstock Inn
Suicide Six Ski area snowmaking provides 50% coverage on 50 acres. With the help of Efficiency Vermont they were able to pick the most energy saving compressors, replacing two 1978 Joy Rotary screw 1500cfm compressors and upgrading them with one Gardner Denver SVT 260 Two Stage variable speed compressor that has 2060cfm.
Middlebury College Snow Bowl
The Snow Bowl covers 45% of their terrain with snowmaking beginning in late November for an early December opening.
Mad River Glen
Snowmaking is the most obvious example of what separates Mad River Glen from the rest of the industry. The snowmaking system is limited not because Mad River skiers don’t like snowmaking but because there has always been precious little water available to do more. Believe it or not, Mad River was at the forefront of snowmaking back in the 1970’s and would likely have increased output if additional water had been available. As the industry changed over the years and became more reliant on snowmaking, Mad River’s lack of it helps to set the mountain apart.