There are three vital ingredients in snowmaking: water, compressed air and proper outside temperature. Snowmaking can begin at 28 degrees if the humidity is low, but the quantity of snow produced in those conditions is minimal. At 26 degrees and lower, the snowmaking really starts to get going and one to several inches can be produced each hour. The colder the conditions get, the more snow the guns can turn out.
The outside air temperature is a rough guide for determining when snowmaking can begin. As temperatures drop from the upper 20s, the snowmaking team will start using test towers to monitor the conditions. When the team determines that the time is right, they will start up the equipment and begin making snow.
Wind direction also plays a big role in whether the snow will fall where it is needed. If the winds are not favorable for the stationary equipment, the team may choose to set up portable equipment to cover the desired areas.
Once the system has been fired up, it’s time to start making some snow! The process begins with the key ingredient: water. The water used for snowmaking is collected in our pond down by the pavilion.
After spending the winter on the mountain, the snow inevitably melts. The melt water replenishes the holding pond at the base of the mountain and recharges the groundwater below. The pond also collects rain and runoff and the same water is used again and again every winter. Whatever water is used on the mountain, stays on the mountain!
The Snow Guns
Tussey Mountain has several types and sizes of snow guns to suit various applications, but they all function essentially the same way. The water and air are forced through the gun under pressure. This pressure creates tiny water droplets which freeze as they enter the freezing ambient air. This produces a snowflake lattice structure similar to natural snow.
Various conditions can yield different snow textures from wet and sticky to dry and powdery. Once the snow is on the ground, it must be finished into a skiable surface. Our Pisten Bully groomer levels all of the snow, moves it to where it is needed and grinds it up to provide an ideal skiing surface.