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Thursday 07/09

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Snowmaking 101

The snow has yet to fall here at Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena, Illinois, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t preparing for our winter season. Luckily for all the ski and snowboard lovers who have been itching to hit the slopes since last year, Chestnut Mountain doesn’t have to wait for a blizzard to hit for us to open. With access to state-of-the-art technology, we can make our own snow, which allows us to open earlier than the first snowfall. Here’s the inside scoop on how we make the magic happen.

 

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Weather conditions

Making snow is more than just waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate with us.  We need two important variables to be on our side in order to fire up the snow guns; temperature and humidity.  The relationship between actual air temperature (dry bulb temperature) and humidity is called wet bulb temperature. Due to the complicated relationship between temperature and humidity, it’s actually possible to make snow at temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, on a humid day, it may not be possible to make snow even though the thermometer indicates it’s below freezing.  The rule of thumb is that as the temperature and humidity go down, the amount of snow we make goes up!

Snowmaking process

When people hear the phrase “snowmaking,” they immediately think that the snow is artificial, which isn’t the case at Chestnut Mountain. The snow is made by using a snow gun that combines water and compressed air through a fairly simple process. Water is pulled from the Mississippi River, pumped onto the mountain, then forced through a nozzle in the machine that combines the water with compressed air.  Chestnut Mountain Resort pumps 5,000 gallons of water per minute when running our 70 snow guns at full capacity. Over the course of the season, this equates between 50 – 70 million gallons of water for our snow each year.

Durability of machine made snow

You may notice that the snow we make at Chestnut is more durable than natural snow. Here’s why:

The naturally produced, classic six-sided snowflake is soft and fluffy when it falls from the sky because it’s comprised mostly of air. However, over time the branches break off and the crystals melt faster since the surface area is larger. This causes the properties of the snow to change dramatically.

Machine made snow looks more like little round balls and combines more water with air. Overtime, this snow may shrink, but the basic round shape stays the same and since it has a smaller surface area, it melts slower than natural flakes. Therefore, you can groom, ski and snowboard on machine made snow and it will retain its original properties for a longer period of time.

Snow will soon be on the ground and we are just as anxious as you are for that day. Before we know it, Chestnut will be bustling with skiers and snowboarders with the help of our snow machines. Be sure to keep your eye on our webcam to see when the snow starts to fall! We can’t wait to see you on the mountain!