Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Sign of the Season

Like the falling of leaves and the season's first frost, a sure sign of winter's imminent arrival is the delivery of Okemo's snowmaking air compressors. It's one of those special behind-the-scenes moments that turn a resort worker's thoughts to snow-covered trails and first tracks on newly opened runs - one of the perks of working in the ski industry.

With Okemo's Blogger Central offices located within earshot of those compressors, it's just a matter of time before we hear those first blasts of air that signify the arrival of cooler temperatures and the start of snowmaking operations.

Although Okemo's crews have the process down to a science, the concept of snowmaking is relatively simple. When you combine compressed air and water in the right combination, based on temperature and humidity, the result is snow! The serious cost to snowmaking comes through the production of that compressed air. It takes energy to do that.

Okemo has made huge investments in reducing the amount of energy used to make snow. The most visual of those energy conscious efforts can be seen in the resort's arsenal of HKD tower guns. Old-fashioned ground and sled-mounted snowmaking guns generally produce snow at an air-to-water ratio of 10:1. HKDs can cover trails more efficiently and with a broader spread, using a ratio that is as little as 1:1. Imagine the savings in energy being used at that rate! And, because the water and air are being combined in nozzles attached to elevated towers, it gives the water molecules more "hang time" to crystallize and form nice, big, fluffy snow "flakes."

This year, Okemo will demo some new HKD technologies that will allow the resort to make snow efficiently at closer-to-freezing temperatures. You can read about this and other "what's new" news online at Okemo's Press Room. Cheers!

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