World-class Snowmaking Gives Vermont Ski Areas the Edge
When it comes to New England weather, Mother Nature can be capricious. The skies don’t always cooperate with the white winter wishes of Vermont skiers and riders.
Fortunately, snowmaking at Vermont ski areas has evolved into a sort of masterwork, equal parts science and art, that can produce stellar conditions regardless of how much help it gets from the weather. With crews of seasoned experts implementing the latest, cutting-edge technology, these ski areas provide consistently excellent surfaces on which to slide.
Snowmaking has been especially important this season, allowing ski areas to open more acres of terrain to help with physically-distanced skiing and riding. Distancing is one aspect of the safety protocols and procedures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vermont ski areas are also committed to continuous improvement of their snowmaking systems in coverage capacity, efficiency, and performance. Here are some examples of the incredible snowmaking abilities that ski areas across the Green Mountain State have at their disposal:
Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo is proud to have its team of snowmakers recognized as a finalist in the 2020/21 HKD I AM a Snowmaker competition. Okemo’s reputation for reliability and lightning-fast recovery, especially when New England weather strikes, is renowned among eastern skiers and riders. Okemo covers 98 percent of its trails with a snowmaking system that includes 1,300 energy-efficient HKD tower guns mountain-wide. Recent upgrades to Okemo’s water-pumping power allows the resort to move up to 9,000 gallons of water per minute through its network of pipes and pumps. And ample amounts of water are ready to be turned into snow when the temperatures allow.
Okemo’s primary snowmaking reservoir holds 155 million gallons of water. Okemo typically converts 350 to 450 million gallons of water into snow each winter season. Two snowmaking crews work 12-hour shifts so Okemo can make snow `round the clock when winter arrives. A fleet of state-of-the-art Prinoth grooming machines and a team of veteran operators work through the night to provide optimal surface conditions every day of the ski and snowboard season.
The Longest Season in the East is made, not born. If snowmaking is the heart of The Beast, the Mountain Operations Team is the backbone of the whole operation. To compliment Mother Nature’s average of 250 inches of natural snow each winter, Killington Resort’s snowmaking system covers 600 of its skiable acres.
When conditions are at their best, in an hour’s time, Killington’s snowmaking system pumps more than 720,000 gallons of water to 240 snow guns, covering 80 acres with 12 inches of fresh snow. The snowmaking system features 88 miles of pipe, 1,700 snow guns (including more than 1,100 Low Energy guns), and a virtually endless supply of water to produce machine-made snow.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
With a fleet comprised of 100 percent high efficiency/low energy snow guns, Smugglers’ is well-known for high-quality surface conditions. Capacity currently sits at 62 percent and is expected to grow over the coming years thanks to the recent addition of a water intake pipeline which runs from the Resort down to the nearby Lamoille River.
Bromley’s snowmaking system allows the Sun Mountain to make snow on 76 percent of its skiable terrain. Bromley prides itself on efficient, high-quality, man-made snow and invests in efficiency and quality every year. This year, crews at Bromley have replaced 400 feet of snowmaking pipe, a major culvert, and nozzles on 50 snow guns – reducing water waste, improving drainage and allowing mountain ops to dial in the resort’s needs more efficiently by the day, by the hour – whatever it takes.
Sugarbush believes that snowmaking can make a real difference in getting terrain open with better conditions, sooner, and as such offers snowmaking on 70 percent of its terrain. But it purposely reserves the other 30 percent of terrain for natural snow conditions to enjoy those powder filled days on bumps, narrows, and steeps.
Thanks to the purchase of low-energy snow guns including Snow Logic, HKD, and Ratnik snowguns over the last decade, Sugarbush has seen energy savings of close to 20 percent, while being able to make more, better quality snow in less time. The resort has also increased the percentage of trails it typically grooms on any given day, especially on weekends, and now includes favorites like Stein’s Run and The Cliffs into the rotation.
With the largest capital investment in 20 years for snowmaking improvements last summer, skiers and riders at Pico can look forward to more consistent and more reliable snow surfaces this winter and for seasons to come.
Stratton Mountain Resort
Throughout the season, snowmakers optimize snow quality and energy efficiency with a state-of-the-art control system. From opening to closing, Stratton offers the “great snow guarantee” thanks to over 1,200 snowguns plus unrivaled air and water capacity with 220 million gallons in reserve. Stratton's new Aebi mower offers the best in slope mowing over the offseason, lowering the amount of snow needed early season to cover the terrain. A Prinoth Leitwolf joined the grooming fleet, boasting a Mercedes Tier 4 Diesel engine that produces 530 horsepower and a tiller that covers 15 feet in a single pass, dramatically increasing efficiency.
Grooming machines are monitored in real-time by Prinoth’s fleet management system that also precisely measures snow depth through the satellite based “SnowHow” system, delivering a 15 percent increase in efficiency, 12 percent cost savings and 11 percent higher grooming performance.
Suicide Six Ski Area
Suicide Six is enjoying another great season of fantastic snowmaking and grooming. The mountain’s SoPo Ranch Terrain Park expanded this winter, and with the help of a brand-new Prinoth Bison X park groomer the features are larger with improved takeoffs and landings. The new groomer also has the capability to reach the steepest slopes thanks to its winch technology.
Continued work on snowmaking pipes and guns brings high-quality coverage to the slopes faster, and full automation of the mountain’s signature trail, The Face, will help extend the season’s length.