Simply put, the mountain is full of fall lines and crevices that need to be filled with snow before we can open many of our runs. Some people may not believe it but our Cascade putting course is actually buried under a mountain of snow. So, next time you ski down Smart Alec, just before you get to the lift, take a moment to ponder the 18 hole golf course buried in 3 meters of snow underneath your skis!
We do our best to get our snow guns blowing early and often. And, with our snowmaking capacity combined with the tremendous amount of natural snowfall this season, it’s easy to wonder why we open parts of the mountain with limited runs only. While our snow guns do a great job of covering our trails, they need to be running in optimal weather conditions for a prolonged period of time before we’ll see adequate snow coverage to open a run from top to bottom. A tower gun can generate between 35 to 60 gallons of snow per minute. To put that number into perspective, we’ll generally see 1368 cubic feet of snow produced over a 12 hour period with a tower gun running in optimal conditions. However, just because a gun has produced that much snow, doesn’t mean that it’s produced in a way that provides full trail coverage. Typically, tower guns create snow piles in about a 100 foot radius directly in front of the gun. However, we can’t just open a trail up on those snow piles alone. It needs to be pushed around and carried to other parts of the trail. To do that, we bring out our fleet of the most modern grooming equipment and technology in the industry: the Prinoth Bison groomers.
When the Resort is open, we groom three times a day: a night groom from 4-7pm, a north groom from 7pm-12am, and an overnight/morning groom from 12am onwards. After grooming, the piles of snow around the tower guns are taken from 2 to 3 meters deep in small areas to a consistent skiable service, tree line to tree line, and everywhere in between, that measures from .5 to 1 meter deep. When we are fortunate enough to receive large amounts of natural snow the fresh powder is a delight for our guests. Unfortunately, after grooming the natural snow does not add up to a lot of base depth. For instance, if 30cm of natural snow falls, that snow will easily pack down to about 3cm after grooming. Whereas 30cm of man-made snow is far less compressible due to the density of frozen grain created by the guns. Generally speaking, 30cm of man-made snow will remain close to 30cm after grooming.
Grooming itself can be time consuming. Depending on the size of the trail, on run can take between 2 and 4 hours to groom from top to bottom. Given the size of our mountain, it takes more than 100 grooming hours to cover the entire mountain each night. Of course, every grooming project comes with its own set of challenges that can see the hour count go up or down depending on trail conditions. The most difficult grooming conditions are when there is little to no traction for climbing and pushing snow. Until a good base has been built and is set up, it is difficult to groom out smoothly. These types of conditions are typically seen at the beginning of the season, or whenever a large amount of snow has been made in one particular area.
With all of this said, our snowmakers and groomers are truly best in class. They are committed to their jobs and love providing you with the best possible Blue Mountain experience. Despite any perceived obstacles, our team endures and exceeds guest expectations time and time again. So, if you do happen to come across a run that has been closed off, know that everyone is working overtime to get it open so you can enjoy a more of the mountain, more often.
Now, it’s time for me to sign off. Thanks for hosting me as a guest blogger! By now, I hope you’re all well-versed in the science of snowmaking. And, if you ever see me out on the hill, don’t be afraid to say hi!