The Science of Snowmaking at Snowshoe

West Virginia

Opening day at Snowshoe Resort is tomorrow. And while you’re just pulling out your ski jacket and snow goggles, the staff on the mountain has been preparing for weeks. And, as we found out, snow business is big business!

So what does it take to get the slopes ready for winter guests at Snowshoe?  A lot more than we thought. We hit the mountain to get a behind the scenes tour of their brand new multi-million dollar snowmaking gear. 

“We have 74 new fan guns and those are the most high flow, volume snow gun you can buy in North America right now,” stated Shawn Cassell, Public Relations Manager, Snowshoe Mountain. “And, we have another 85 Snow Logic stick guns which are super duper energy efficient and they use less than 10% of traditional snowmaking equipment. And they’re all over the central basin, the X which connects to the South Mountain area and the Western Territory which is a lot of peoples favorite.”

We meet up with Ty Tegtmeyer to find out how all of these new guns will help transform the slopes. He’s been making snow on the mountain for the past decade.

“That’s what a lot of people think that it’s all natural snow, said Ty Tegtmeyer, Snowmaking Mananger, Snowshoe Mountain. “But we could not have a resort here without snowmaking.”

“But if you do your job right, it looks like Mother Nature did it, right,” asked Jennifer Abney?

And now, they are able to help Mother Nature even more by going high tech.

“Basically, each gun has its own computer, it has its own weather station, it knows what the weather is, it knows what the humidity is, and it knows what the water temp is so the computer can say it can put this much water out into the air and it will freeze,” added Ty. 

This allows them to control the quality of the snow they make. But what’s the difference between man-made and natural snow? Well actually, some pretty cool science. 

“You have to nucleate water,” said Ty. “You have to smash water molecules into a smaller size so they will freeze at a higher temperature.”

“Man-made snow is heavier,” added Ty. “Natural snow is a bigger particle that has legs or tentacles sticking out from it that will melt a lot faster. Man-made snow is a tighter particle and sticks around a lot longer. And, it doesn’t melt nearly as fast.”

Thus, making it more durable for skiing and snowboarding on.

Next up, we had to find out if we could spot the real stuff.

“Real snow? Man-made snow? Right?” asks Jennifer. “Can you tell when you are skiing?”

Ty says you can’t tell the difference.

“With the exception of a powder day, we can’t make a foot of light fluffy powder,” said Shawn.

“With a snowball fight, I’m going with the manmade. I’ll win every time,” jokes Jennifer.

“Don’t get in a snowball fight with Jennifer,” Shawn said.

Snowball fights aside, the snowmaking crew will be working smarter not harder this season. And, they hope their guests will benefit the most! 

“It used to take four or five hours just to go up the hill and turn all the guns on,” exclaimed Shawn. “Now, with these new guns, we’re turning them on with the flick of a switch. And those 4 to 5 hours we were waiting to get those guns turned on, now they’re up and running. And, we’re not wasting time and we’re getting every precious minute of snowmaking opportunity taken advantage of.”

Making for a sweet run on the slopes this season! 

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