Ski Vermont Snowmaking Upgrades Prove Timely

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A concerted investment by Vermont ski and snowboard areas last year in high efficiency snowmaking equipment is paying dividends for skiers and riders this season, allowing many Vermont resorts to maintain open trail counts despite fluctuating weather patterns.

snowmaking

Snowmaking guns at Okemo Mountain Resort

In a year where natural snowfall has been sparse, snowmaking has been key...

Vermont is the most prepared state to tackle a low snowfall season with snowmaking systems that can cover up to 80% of the state’s ski and snowboard terrain. A concerted investment by Vermont ski and snowboard areas last year in high efficiency snowmaking equipment is paying dividends for skiers and riders this season, allowing many Vermont resorts to maintain open trail counts despite fluctuating weather patterns. Vermont resorts continue to fire up snowmaking systems when possible, honoring their commitment to provide the best possible conditions and an extended season to their customers.

Last year during the Great Snow Gun Round Up, Vermont resorts collectively invested in more than $15 million worth of high efficiency snow guns. More than 2,700 new snow guns are in place this year as a result of that investment replacing over 1800 old guns in 2014. Before that, approximately 3,600 newer snow guns had been brought into operation over a nine year period.

When snowmaking operations are running at full tilt, new high efficiency guns are not only saving ski areas on energy costs, they’re also able to crank out more snow with the same amount of compressed air as older guns. Depending on air temperature, the newer technology allows ski areas to run three to ten times as many guns with the same amount of compressed air.

“While businesses have certainly felt the impact of the low snow season so far, it’s great to hear testaments from skiers and riders about how well the resorts are dealing with the wild weather patterns with continued snowmaking operations,” said Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle. “They’ve really pulled out the stops when it comes to preparing the terrain as best as possible and have been creative with off-slope alternative activities.”

Okemo Mountain Resort is approaching the 400 million mark – that’s the number of gallons of water Okemo has turned into snow so far this season. Okemo pumps water from the Black River and from its 155 million gallon snowmaking reservoir at 7,000 to 9,000 gallons per minute.

Okemo’s dedication to snowmaking and grooming extends to offering seven terrain parks with more than 70 features and the building and maintaining of the East’s only superpipe this season. At 500 feet long with walls measuring 18 feet high, Okemo’s Amp Energy Superpipe demonstrates the resort’s commitment and ability to make things happen when it comes to snowmaking.

"In a year where natural snowfall has been sparse, snowmaking has been key,” said Bolton Valley’s Josh Arneson. “There have been several days this season where the only trails open are the ones where we have made snow. Snowmaking has allowed us to deliver skiable terrain to our loyal skiers and riders.”

At Rikert Nordic Center, the uncooperative winter of 2015-16 has proven the value of their snowmaking system, which has allowed them to cover the 5K Tormondsen Family Trail for over 80 days of continuous skiing since December, providing terrain for the casual adult skier, kids' groups and collegiate-level racers. Trapp Family Lodge is also continuing snowmaking efforts in hopes to stay open as long as possible. Fatbiking is also gaining popularity at Nordic and alpine resorts. They can be ridden on grass, dirt or snow so it’s isn’t as weather dependent.

The trend to diversify offerings at ski resorts continues to grow and can offset less than perfect winter conditions and supports off-season business. The importance of business diversification was evident at Jay Peak Resort during the Presidents’ holiday week. Hosting a mid-week 16-team hockey tournament that brought in more than 500 players, families and spectators for four nights, helped the resort beat last year’s revenue number for the same week.

Festivals and family-friendly events throughout March also aim to entertain. Find a list of highlighted events and deals at skivermont.com.

Photos of snowmaking at Vermont resorts can be viewed and downloaded here.

Efficiency Vermont
The snowmaking upgrades result from the ski industry’s collaboration with Efficiency Vermont, the statewide energy efficiency utility that has provide third-party testing and verification of performance claims made by manufacturers, along with incentives to encourage ski industry investment in the more efficient guns. The significant energy savings benefit all of Vermont by reducing total system demand for electricity and the need for costly new infrastructure investments.

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Sarah Wojcik
Ski Vermont
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