Since the birth of snowmaking in the forties, technology has developed to a point where it has become feasible to produce machine snow even on not-so-cold days just below the freezing point. The basic requirements for the manufacturing of snow are compressed air, water and electricity.
You may notice above ground, the extensive network of stationary fan type snow machines. What you can't see and what perhaps few of you are aware of, is the large underground network of electrical wire and over 3,000 feet of 12" and 8" pipe connecting over 100 tower snow guns. This system allows us to pump a capacity of 200 gallons per minute per acre or over 6,000 gallons of water per minute on our slopes. It takes about 160,000 gallons of water to make one acres of snow one foot deep. Pumping some 6,000 gallons of water per minute translates to about six inches of snow over the entire ski area in a 12 hour night.
Air is either piped from a large central compressor or compressed at the snowmaking station itself. At the station, both water and air are pumped into the snowmaking machine under high pressure and the two elements are combined in the nucleator, where it forms the nucleus, a tiny snow crystal. With water near freezing temperature and air expanding at 110 psi to normal atmospheric pressure, we create a refrigeration effect whereby each water deposit will instantly become a tiny snow crystal. Now, depending on the temperature, we add anywhere from 16 to 200 gallons of water per minute per snowmaking tower. This water is sprayed so finely that it clings to the snow crystal and forms a snowflake. At this point, an electric fan within the machine blows the whole mass of snow crystals onto the slopes.
The most efficient snowmaking occurs in the upper teens with low humidity. At these temperatures, an optimum amount of water can be added to the nucleus without causing any freezing problems. As temperatures and humidity rise, the amount of water needs to be decreased in order to create a dry, fluffy quality of snow. Snow can be efficiently made at a temperature and humidity factor not exceeding 100, and at temperatures up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
Temperature 16 degrees, Humidity 50% = Factor 66 ( Excellent Snowmaking)
Temperature 25 degrees, Humidity 50% = Factor 75 (Good Snowmaking)
Temperature 28 degrees, Humidity 40% = Factor 68 (Possible Snowmaking)
Temperature 23 degrees, Humidity 98% = Factor 121 (Poor or impossible Snowmaking)
Interested in learning more about snow making at JFBB? Head on over to our employment page for information on how to become a part of the JFBB snowmaking team.