Snow Making

As Steamboat Resort expands its snowmaking operations, it is doing so with efficiency in mind. Utilizing the most efficient equipment on the market, Steamboat’s snowmaking team is now equipped to make snow on upper and lower High Noon and will expand operations further into the Sunshine Bowl area next season.

While about 820 hydrants with manual snow guns are located across the mountain, Steamboat Resort has added an additional 63 newer automated fan guns that are impressively efficient, not to mention intelligent. Each one of SMI Snowmakers automated fan guns has its own weather station and can control and adjust itself automatically based on the weather conditions, which, especially in the Rockies, are constantly changing. They can also be turned on by a simple push of a button from the control building at the top of Christie, allowing for the snowmaking team to optimally produce snow more efficiently when the conditions are just right. And, with an individual compressor on each SMI snow gun, they turn on immediately and reduce the amount of energy used per gallon of water when compared to the manual snow guns.

Last season, Greenhorn Ranch was the newly added snowmaking terrain, and was Steamboat Resort’s first opportunity to use SMI’s automated fan guns along an entire run as 29 were put into place. Typically, the manual snow guns would need temperatures to be 24 degrees or below, however, the newer snow guns can operate at 28 degrees and below, allowing for a larger window to make snow. This season, another 34 automated fan guns are in place on upper and lower High Noon, and next season, another 25 will be added to Tomahawk and Spike, amounting to a total of 88 SMI automated fan guns for now.

These two areas on the mountain are pivotal when it comes to holiday guests, and having snowmaking equipment to open the slopes earlier, regardless of whether the snow is falling, is a huge improvement to Steamboat Resort. While natural snowfall is always the hope, it is sometimes not the reality. It takes 40 inches on the ground (which means more than 40 inches of total snowfall when you consider melting and evaporation rates) to safely open a ski slope. Often in Steamboat Springs we get the infamous Champagne Powder® snow that we all love, but when it comes to packing a base, manmade snow is much denser and can last much longer. By adding snowmaking equipment to Greenhorn Ranch and the Sunshine Bowl, the snowmaking team will be able to better control the density of the snow needed to provide 40 inches on the ground, which ultimately will allow for more terrain to open earlier in the ski season.

As the snow guns being added to Steamboat Resort are more efficient, so too are the newer underground ductile iron pipes to carry water across the mountain. When compared to the older steel pipes that have a lifespan of 20 to 40 years, these new cast iron pipes can last up to 100 years. The newer pipes are also smoother and 20% more efficient over the course of five years as there is no friction loss when compared to older and rougher pipes. While older steel pipes do still exist, as new underground piping systems are added and replaced, Steamboat Resort is utilizing these more efficient and durable ductile iron pipes.

Along with newer snow guns and underground pipes, the snowmaking team is also expanding their gallons per minute ratio with newer and additional pumps. Next summer, a new pumphouse will be built to double the pumping capacity above Christie Peak Express and additionally allow for a 30% capacity expansion in the future.

When it comes to snowmaking, there is no guarantee. However, with additional and more efficient snowmaking equipment, Steamboat Resort will have more control when it comes to opening certain terrain. Weather is the constant variable, and you do need the right conditions to make snow, but with smarter snowmaking technology in place, Steamboat’s snowmaking team will have the resources they need to make skiers and riders early season dreams come true!

Written by Erin Campbell