Snowmaking: Quick Facts from Barry St Cyr, Director of Mountain Operations

So far, this Season's Total is 90.5" of fresh, white, tasty, and just beautiful snow. But we want MORE! Our famous Snow Reporter Whitney talked to Barry St Cyr, Director of Mountain Operations, and learned everything about snowmaking at Waterville Valley Resort. If you have more questions just text them in comments below this blog and we will get back to you with the answers.  

What time does your snowmaking crew start working?

There are two shifts, one is midnight to noon and the second is noon to midnight. Much of the work occurs at before and after the mountain is open to the public so the alternating shifts split the work up most evenly, rather day and night shifts.

How many people do you have on your snowmaking crew and how many are on the clock at any given time?

16 total and 8 on each shift.

How many snow guns do you have?

About 1,200 in total, which includes fan, ground, and tower guns.

What % of your mountain has snow making?

100% of Mt. Tecumseh has snowmaking capabilities. At the moment, one trail on Green Peak has a water line for snowmaking, however we are able to actually blow snow on 3 trails, which is almost 1/3 of Green Peak Trails. We are hoping to install more lines this summer so that Green Peak will have 100% snowmaking next season!

Where do you get your water for the snow?

Our water comes from the Mad River, which feeds Cocoran Pond in the Valley and the Snowmaking Pond up on the mountain.

Is there anything special or new about your snow making capabilities?

The water line on Green Peak is new (along with all of Green Peak) this year! We also have about 9 new sufag Fan Guns this year. It has been great this year the way the snowmakers have gotten creative to blow snow on Mt. Tecumseh trails in such a way that groomers can manipulate it and transport it for full coverage of our open Green Peak trails and also all the way up to the top of Green Peak!

What is your "mode of operation" when it comes to getting the slopes ready for the first runs of the day?

At the end of the day when the lifts close patrol will clear the whole mountain of guests before the operations crews can begin their work. Snowmakers and groomers will then start working right after the mountain closes for the day, either setting up or adjusting snowmaking equipment or grooming, shaping, or building on trails. Snowmakers and groomers will work through the night and right up until the mountain opens the next morning. Groomers will work in conjunction with snowmakers to get all trails ready for the next day, whether that means removing all equipment and grooming, getting equipment out of the way of skiers and groomers but leaving snowmaking running during the day, or closing trails for snowmaking and shaping or building parks or Fun Runs. Snowmakers will put down snow in designated areas like lift ramps that groomers will shape in the morning before putting down a final layer of smooth corduroy in the morning before guests hit the slopes. Lift mechanics and operators will then clear and open lifts once all snowmaking equipment is clear of trails and grooming cats are clear of the hill and skiers. Finally, ski patrol will ride all the lifts and clear all open trails before opening the mountain to the public.

We are very proud and thankful to our hardworking snowmaking, grooming, and park crews, lift operators and mechanics, ski patrollers, and the rest of our wonderful staff!

Waterville Valley snowmaker

Waterville Valley snowmaker



Waterville Valley smowmakers

Waterville Valley smowmakers

Waterville Valley's Funny Snow Facts

Let's be honest...We post a lot of pictures from the beautiful Waterville Valley Resort. But how about the fact that some people don't think in pictures, they think in numbers. Let's talk about interesting and funny snow facts today. Let's talk numbers! 

Under Ideal Conditions 

(No sublimation, no wind loss,100% conversion of water to snow) 3 gals of water will make one cubic foot of snow with a density of approximately 25 lb./cu. ft.  Snow of this density is firm but you would not be able to make a snowball out of it. That means that 130,000 gals of water would convert to one acre foot of snow. That’s one acre one foot deep, or roughly an area the size of a football field one foot deep in snow.

Under Actual Conditions 

We use a figure of approximately 160,000 gals of water for an acre ft of snow. This accounts for wind loss, sublimation ( tiny particles of water going from a liquid state directly to a vapor and thus never turning into snow), and less then 100% conversion. If you assume 160,000 gals ofwater to get 1 ac.ft. of snow on the ground our water use and snow production look something like this in an ideal 24 hr. period.

 Pump capacity = 3000 gals/min =180,000 gals/hr.

 = 4,320,000 gals/day divided by 160,000 gals/acft.

 = 27 acre feet of snow every 24 hrs.

27 acre feet of snow is 27 football fields one foot deep or one football field 27 feet deep.

How much water is 4,320,000 gals of water?

Assume your toilet takes 1 gal of water to flush.

You have 2 toilets.

That’s 2 gals to flush both of them.

If you flush them both 15 times a day that’s 15 flushes X 2 gals = 30 gals a day.

 4,320,000 gals divided by 30 gals/day = 144,000 days of flushing.

144,000 days divided by 365 = 394.5 years.

You could flush 2 toilets 15 times a day everyday for 394.5 years with the amount of water we use in 24 hours. (Remember though, that’s under ideal conditions say 0 degrees and only a very slight breeze blowing)

How much laundry could you do with that same amount of water?

Assume your washing machine uses 20 gals per load.

You do three loads a day (You either have very clean clothes or a very big family).

20 gals a load X 3 loads a day = 60 gals / day.

4,320,000 divided by 60 gpd = 72,000 days.

72,000 days divided by 365 = 197.25 yrs.

That’s 3 loads a day every single day for almost 197.25 yrs and by then you’ll be sick of doing laundry!

You like soda?

That’s 99.9% water. How much soda could you make with the amount of water we use to make snow with over the course of 24 hrs. under ideal conditions?

4,320,000 gals X 128 oz. In a gal = 552,960,000 oz. ofwater.

552,960,000 oz. / 12 oz. (1 can) = 46,080,000 12 oz cans of soda.

46,080,000 / 24 (cans/case) = 1,920,000 cases of soda.

If you and your friends drank 2 cases of soda a day.

1,920,000 cases / 2 =960,000 days.

 960,000/365 = 2630.

You and your friends could drink 2 cases of soda every day for the next 2630 years , but by then you’d be going to the bathroom a whole lot more and flushing the toilet a whole lot more and it would probably run out of water in 35 years instead of 78.9 years. Oh well!!!

In any case it really is quit a bit of water.

How much air do we use to make snow?

Approximately16,000 cubic feet per minute at 100 psi.

That’s the amount of air that is in a room that’s 28’ X 28’ and 11’ high.

Every minute that amount of air is compressed to 100 psi and sent up the hill through pipes to the guns and mixed with the water to make snow.

How many balloons could you blow up with that much air? We Have to make some assumptions here. Let’s say a large birthday balloon takes about 1 cubic foot ofspace. Since we are compressing the air when we blow into a balloon ( that’s why your cheeks puff up ) it probably takes about 4 cubic feet of air to fill one balloon. So...

16,000 / 4 = 4000

That’s 4000 birthday balloons every minute. If you gave one to each kid at your party you’dneed a bigger house. We use that much air every minute to make snow.

Now let's get outside and play in the snow!