From water to white stuff: the magic of snowmaking

A snowmaking gun begins to blanket the ground in a layer of white magic. | Photo Supplied

There is a lot of preparation behind the scenes before chairlifts turn on opening day and guests are welcomed onto the mountain. Arguably one of the most important aspects is having enough snow on the ground to slide over. Alongside Mother Nature, this is achieved through weeks of snowmaking.

Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), has up to 25 snow guns working at once to blanket slopes, said SPR slopes manager Seth Worthen. The crew of 15 snowmaking experts begins mid-October when temperatures drop and works around the clock to get the mountain ready for mid-to-late November.

When nature provides cool temperatures but not the required moisture, technology takes over, adding water to the air to create the fluffy white stuff every skier craves. They need temperatures of -2 C to begin, but ideal temperatures are colder which allows for more water to go through the machine.

Work starts on the run OSV, which has around 13 acres of ground to cover, to prepare for pre-season race training. Outside operations director for SPR, Barney Mouat, said this October there are around 17 guns running full blast on OSV.

To cover one acre in one foot of snow requires 162,000 gallons of water, and while one foot of snow is enough for a base on most runs, OSV requires up to two feet to secure race gates and for athlete safety.

To cover the run entirely for racers uses up to 8 million gallons of water or as much water as it would take to fill nearly 120 Slush Cup pits.

The water comes from a reservoir that holds up to 33 million gallons As it won’t replenish through the winter the team has to be careful with how it’s used, leaving behind around 1 million gallons at the end of the season.

“Exactly what is needed is used,” Mouat said. “We try to be as careful and meticulous as we can.”

Snow guns work hard on 5 Mile before the mountain opens. Photo SPIN.

From OSV the guns are moved around other high priority areas of the mountain like 5-Mile run, Tube Time, the platter lift and the terrain parks.

You will see the guns in action earlier in the season, but Worthen said they hope to be wrapped up by Christmas.

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