Saturday, January 5, 2013

Snowmaking in the real cold.........


It has been some time since the last Blog.   Lot’s has happened since then.  Cold weather, great snowmaking, sunny skies and a good first week of January.  The New Year has brought good fortune to Okemo and all our skiers and riders.

Snowmaking has been moving full force during the past 10 days or so.  The weather has been ideal for snowmaking and we have been working hard at getting the terrain parks, Superpipe and other trails covered in snow.  Tuckered Out, which is one of our longer snowmaking trails, opened up this weekend.  Snowmaking in the cold weather is always a challenge. While the basics of snowmaking are to keep the water moving, it is even more prevalent and important when the temperatures are hovering near below zero.  Okemo has many of our snowmaking pipes above ground. This is done for a couple reasons. One, the mountain terrain of ledge outcroppings would require blasting to get the pipes underground. Two, the price of installing snowmaking underground is much higher.  So having the pipe above ground means that between the temperature, wind and steel pipe, the water needs to be mobile!  The snowmakers know that sitting water is not good.  The system is built to have loops where the water will drain at the far end. Another trick for the snowmakers is to run a gun very close to the end of the loop. This keeps the water moving even more.  On cold nights you will see snowmakers carrying their propane torches with them all night in the event that there is a problem, they can get some heat on the pipe quickly.
Another concern with making snow when the temperature is real cold is the snowmakers themselves.  Now these guys dress for the conditions every night, but below zero brings out additional concerns. The guys are always watching out for each other, checking for exposed skin, making sure guys don’t go out alone and in general working as a team to take care of each other.  Decisions are made with the guys in mind as to where we might make snow.  During real cold weather the plan is usually to stay on the lower mountain trails and stay off of the summit. This is to keep the snowmakers safer as well as protect our equipment from potential freeze ups.  As you can well imagine, in the event of a power failure when it is cold, things need to happen fast to drain the pipes.  It is a real fire drill!

If you have been skiing in the past few days you have seen the construction begin on the terrain parks. Black Out Progression Park, Hot Dog Hill and Broken Arrow are all now open.  Rails and features are coming off of Sapphire to move to the other parks.  Construction on Nor’easter will be next and then the Superpipe.  It will probably be a week until we see the Superpipe ready. Lots of work is needs to be done before the lasers are set up to cut the Superpipe.

Long range weather is looking favorable for great skiing and riding. Snowmaking will continue as the weather allows us to, which looks like into early next week.  Thanks for spending time skiing and riding with us. 

Someone asked me my favorite trail…………..I like them all, but Defiance is right up there………

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo General Manager

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