If you have ever wondered how ski resorts make snow, you’re not alone. There are two major types of snowmaking. The first one uses compressed air to launch tiny droplets of water high into the atmosphere. These droplets then freeze and fall to the ground as snow. This method is the least expensive, but it requires two different inputs: compressed air and water. Combined, they can cost up to $90 million per year!
Water is the primary ingredient
Snowmaking begins with a steady supply of water pumped up the mountain. The water is then distributed through an intricate system of valves. Resorts add a nucleating agent to the water, which helps to shape water molecules. These compounds are non-toxic and biodegradable. The resorts then use these solutions to create snow and ice at their ski resorts. Water and electricity are constant costs, so resorts are looking to make the process more efficient while using the same resources.
Despite the huge savings in water, the process of snowmaking requires enormous amounts of water. A study by Rixen et al. (2011) determined that the amount of fresh water used by two Swiss municipalities with large ski resorts ranged from 21-36% of total communal water consumption. Another study from Kitzbuhel, Austria, found that 2.3 million cubic meters of water is consumed annually in snow-making. The ski resorts are also utilizing large amounts of electricity.
The researchers determined that the amount of water pumped into the snow machine is directly related to the snow water equivalent. The TLS data was used to determine the accumulation area. The area was then mapped with a differential global navigation satellite system to estimate the total amount of snow produced by the snow machine. In addition, dHS rasters were masked to exclude areas that had already been skied. After calculating the total volume of snow, the researchers calculated the SWE by multiplying the measured mean densities by the snow height change.
Snowmaking techniques require low temperatures and humidity. As humidity decreases, the threshold temperature to produce snow increases. This is known as the wet-bulb temperature, and is always below the outside air temperature. However, damper air can absorb less moisture than dry air, so it is not necessary for the air temperature to be -5 degrees Celsius. In fact, warmer temperatures are required to turn water into snow.
The artificial snow that is produced at ski resorts is a critical element of winter sports, especially in the arid regions of China. The country’s capital city, Beijing, went to great lengths to make artificial snow, reclaiming a dried riverbed and diverting a key reservoir to make artificial snow. The snow-making operation also required the relocation of hundreds of families and farmers to make room for the Beijing Winter Games.
Energy is used
How ski resorts make snow requires water and electricity. A system at Deer Valley, Utah, covers 725 acres with artificial snow. The system uses 250 snow guns, 40 miles of pipe, and 1,150 hydrants. Snowmaking runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week from October to January. The entire system consumes 240 million gallons of water per season. This is not without its downsides, however.
Many ski resorts have invested in energy-efficient snowmaking systems, digging ponds to store water in the spring and even considering reclaimed wastewater. However, it’s still not clear what the future holds for snowmaking. Vail Resorts, which owns 37 ski resorts across the U.S., Canada, and Australia, recently announced an investment of $3.6 million in energy efficiency and sustainability programs.
In addition to climate change, ski resorts are now increasingly reliant on artificial snow, which uses significant amounts of water and electricity. This contributes to the production of greenhouse gases and to water scarcity. In short, it’s not a pretty picture. Fortunately, the ski industry is addressing these issues head on, and they’re embracing more energy-efficient snowmaking systems. If you’re interested in learning more about how ski resorts make snow using energy, read on.
To help reduce their energy use, many ski resorts are making use of solar panels. The solar panels that they installed last season are estimated to produce up to six hundred megawatt hours of electricity. By using solar power, the resort will offset the emissions from 120 passenger cars. As more ski resorts adopt energy-efficient methods, their operations will not only reduce their costs, but also help them build a greener image.
Increasing the efficiency of water and energy consumption are the two biggest challenges for snowmaking at ski resorts. Water and energy are used to move water up the mountain and distribute it through a complicated system of pipes and valves. The process of snowmaking involves adding a nucleating agent, a chemical that facilitates the formation of water molecules. These agents are biodegradable and nontoxic. There is no doubt that they have a significant impact on the environment, but snowmaking is not the only solution.
Machines are used to make snow
The main ingredients for artificial snow at ski resorts are compressed air and water. The water is mixed with the air and sprayed through a high-powered fan that can propel the mixture 60 feet (18.3 m) into the air. The water crystallizes into snow as it exits the machine, and is piled into large mounds known as whales. Machines used for snowmaking can be easily analyzed to determine their quality.
Currently, 60 per cent of the ski slopes around the world use some form of snowmaking equipment. Though this is not a cheap process, the US ski industry incurs significant costs to create artificial snow. The use of snowmaking equipment has enabled ski resorts to open earlier and close later. For example, ski resorts in Colorado can now open and close their mountain resorts at various times of the year.
Snowmaking machines mimic the natural snowmaking process. When the temperature drops below 32 degrees F, atmospheric water condenses and crystallizes, forming a variety of different snowflakes. As such, artificial snowmaking machines mimic the process by creating a frozen surface and a fresh layer of snow on the slope. They may be connected to a reservoir at the base of the mountain, where water is naturally found.
The machines used to make snow at ski resorts use two hoses to pump water and air. Water is pumped through one hose, while the other pumps air. The air pumps cool the water, allowing it to be blown into the air. Skiers may have even mistakenly believed that they were skiing on snowfall when the snow gun was blowing. This method has several advantages over natural snowmaking.
Snowmaking operations can reduce energy costs and improve environmental conditions. According to the University of Utah, high-elevation locations are warming more quickly than lower-elevation locations. Consequently, higher temperatures mean more rainy days and fewer days to make snow. Additionally, resort managers report that snowfall tends to fall later in the fall, which could negatively affect peak holiday visits. For instance, ski resorts in Australia may see less snow during Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
Impacts of climate change on snowmaking
Currently, snowmaking facilities are sufficient to provide reliably snowed ski runs at elevations of over 2000 m. In a climate change scenario with two degrees of warming, snowmaking facilities will not be adequate below the range of 1500-1600 m. This is especially problematic for small to medium ski resorts, which are typically situated at lower elevations. As the temperature rises, snowmaking facilities will require more electricity and water than previously.
While these measures have a significant impact on the number and quality of snow, the climate change effect is more problematic. The melting of snow on the slopes will make it impossible to produce enough snow to cover the terrain. At the same time, it will increase the carbon footprint of snowmaking operations. With climate change, ski resorts may have to shift to using other forms of water, including natural sources such as rain and runoff.
Currently, snowmaking operations require large amounts of water and fossil fuels, which is an issue in some locations. In Colorado, the state’s drought is making it difficult for ski resorts to make enough fake snow. However, a warmer climate may limit the number of water used for artificial snowmaking. And because of the lack of available water, fewer natural sources of snow are available.
The impacts of climate change on snowmaking at ski resort are primarily economic. If the temperature increases by two degrees Celsius, the length of the ski season would be cut by 8%. And if the average temperature rises by three degrees, the average time it would take for a ski resort to produce 450 hours of snowmaking would decrease by ten to twenty days. As a result, ski resorts would have to increase their snowmaking efforts by two to three times in order to make up for the reduced amount of natural snow.
Some Utah ski resorts have already adapted to climate change by increasing their snowmaking operations. The biggest hurdles in these changes are the financial costs and the uncertainty of climate change projections. However, by incorporating adaptation practices into their daily operations, most resorts will be able to reduce the negative effects of climate change. So how do they make snow? The researchers say that the main challenges they face are financial and water availability.