Taking matters into our own hands.
If there’s one thing we West Coast dwellers know, it’s that Nature is an unpredictable force. While our climate is generally regarded as the most temperate in Canada, we are nevertheless susceptible to dramatic spikes and drops in temperature, prolific rainfall, seemingly endless sunshine, unexpected snowfall, dense fog and strong winds.
In response to Nature’s fickle behaviour, we have invested heavily in technology that helps us mitigate the effects of unpredictable weather patterns. Over the past decade, Grouse Mountain has invested over $7,000,000 in snowmaking equipment. While this sounds like an awfully big investment, we believe that our guests and season passholders deserve the best possible conditions throughout the winter.
Accordingly, we have spent countless hours developing and honing our snowmaking strategy. The result: we consistently provide the longest and most reliable snow season on the North Shore.
How It Works
You will often hear people speak of “artificial snow”. This is a misnomer. While the means of producing snow with the use of a snowmaking fleet is a human orchestrated process, the end product (i.e. snow) is created using the same meteorological method and is very much the real thing! “Man-made snow” is, therefore, a much better term.
The two key ingredients in any recipe for snow are always the same: water and air. The variables that determine the quality of the snow and the ability to make it are, however, numerous and varied. In other words, just because the thermometer reads –5 degrees Celsius doesn’t mean that you have the right conditions to make snow. Humidity, wind, air pressure, water & ground temperature, topography- these are all major factors that must be considered by the professional snowmaker. This is why those in charge of a resort’s snowmaking fleet are often thought of as a combination of artists and magicians!
Basically, every snowflake, whether natural or man-made, is small particles of ice. Our snowmaking machines make snow by breaking water into small particles, cooling the water (by causing them to move through cold air), nucleating the water particles, and distributing the resulting snow on the surface.
The system consists of:
- The pumping systems to deliver air and water to hydrants down the side of all our main ski runs
- Main control valves to maintain required hill pressure to hydrants
- Pipeline system to distribute air and water to hydrants
- Hydrants to reduce the pressure from the pipeline to one which develops the required flow at the gun nozzle
- Nozzles are a series of orifices allowing water to be atomized and discharged to the atmosphere
- Guns are adjusted to an optimal air - water ratio
- Guns are located in priority area for maximum production and snow quality
Snowmaking at Grouse Mountain
In total, Grouse Mountain has a fleet of 37 snowguns. These are:
- 118 water hydrants manufactured by HTM Kelowna
- 74 fan gun power stations
- 9 ½ miles of underground piping
- 37 guns (a mix of 24 Fan Driven Guns and 13 Air/Water guns).
The Fan gun fleet consists of guns manufactured by Snow Machines Incorporated.
- 4 Super Wizard fully automated Towers
- 1 Super Polcat fully automated Tower gun
- 13 Polecat Carriage guns
- 1 Polecat tower gun
- 1 Wizard Carriage
- 4 Whiz Kid Carriages
The Air/Water fleet consists of:
- 7 Single Barrel Ratnik sled mount guns
- 4 Double Barrel Ratnik sled mount guns
- 2 Omicron Single wafer sled mount guns
Grouse Mountain draws on a private water source located in the alpine area. We do not tap into municipal water supply for the production of snow. This water supply is replenished naturally throughout the spring as alpine snow melts.
Benefits of Snowmaking
Prolonged snow season: We can stretch later into the spring as the result of greater snow volumes on our runs.
Earlier starts: With the use of man-made snow, we can compliment our natural snowbase enough to get our season underway early.
Strategic snow placement: We can ensure that we get the coverage we want, where we want it. Often this means that more advanced, feature-laden runs get open earlier.
More skiable days throughout the season: While we are always humbled by Nature's enormous force, we are not entirely dependent on its contributions to our snow base. We are often producing snow even when there hasn't been a trace of natural snowfall for weeks.
Longer lasting snow coverage: Man-made snow has different properties that enable it to better endure weather fluctuations.
Quick recovery time: Following unseasonable warmth and thawing, we can begin pumping snow back onto the slopes within 24 hours, if overnight temperatures permit it.
Snowmaking in Summer?
Well not exactly. However, Grouse Mountain consistently employs its snowguns in the summertime to counter the risks of forest fires. We are located in a pristine BC forest. Accordingly, extreme heat and dry conditions in the summertime can periodically pose the risk of forest fires. One way we deal with this is to saturate strategic areas of forest and underbrush with the use of our snowmaking fleet.
Fun Facts about Snowmaking
During the 2006/07 winter season we:
- Converted 16,822,140 gallons of water into snow.
- Covered the playing field in BC Place end to end with 47 feet of snow.
- Covered the main 11,000 ft long runway at YVR with 2 ft of snow.
- Been working on getting 47.7 strategically selected acres of our skiable area covered with man-made snow.
- Covered each one of these acres on average with 60cm of man-made snow per acre.
Did You Know
- It takes 180,000 gallons of water to cover one acre with one flat foot of snow.
- In the last 10 years we have buried the Empire state building up to the 48th floor.