Liberty Mountain has one of the best snowmaking systems in the ski industry! 100% of our terrain is covered by snowmaking, so as soon as we have cold temperatures, we can have snow all winter long, even if we get no natural snow at all. Making snow is more than just waiting for the weather to be cold enough to fire up the snowguns - there are 6 key elements that need to be in place before we begin to make snow:
- Cold temperatures
- Low humidity
- Compressed air
- Snow guns
- Snowmakers & groomers
First and foremost, we absolutely need cold weather in order to make snow. No equipment arsenal in the world can produce good machine-made snow without it! 32 degrees Fahrenheit is the freezing temperature for water to turn into snow crystals, but ideal snowmaking conditions call for temperatures to be 28 degrees or lower.
Aside from the air temperatures, our snowmaking staff at Liberty Mountain also keep an especially close eye on the wet bulb. The wet bulb temperature is a combination of the air temperature and the humidity, and is the most critical indicator for snowmaking. A wet bulb in the low to mid 20s means we can even make snow at or above 32 degrees sometimes! In a nutshell, as the temperature and humidity drop, the amount of snow made per hour goes up.
Compressed Air & Water
Water and compressed air is the combination that creates our snow! Compressors create the compressed air (41,000/cfm) which is then pushed through miles of snowmaking air pipes that line the mountain. Another set of parallel snowmaking pipes is used to pump up to (4,700/gpm) of water up the mountain. All the water is drawn from our snowmaking pond located in our base area, converted into snow over the winter, and then returned naturally to the water table and pond in the springtime when the snow melts.
The snowgun serves as the mixing chamber for the water and air. The 350 snow guns at Liberty Mountain vary in their specific function and location on the mountain, depending on how they create, blow, and position the snow.
Machine made snow is more durable than natural snow, and is actually better for getting a great snow base here at Liberty! Natural snowflakes have 6 arms, or dendrites that spread away from the flake's core, and create the symmetrical crystals that make them so pretty-but also makes them so fragile! Machine made snow on the other hand is a simple ball of snow-no arms to break off and get compacted down, thus being more durable for creating and maintaining a base.
Snowmaking and Computers
Another aspect that makes our snowguns so special is that much of our system is computerized. Once the conditions on the mountain reach ideal snowmaking temperatures and humidity levels, our York snowmaking system automatically fires up the snowguns, and fine tunes each individual gun's setting based on the conditions at each strategically placed weather station located up and down our trails. This means we can have the entire computerized system up and making snow in less than an hour - so as soon as we get Mother Nature's cooperation, our slopes will be blanketed in white in no time at all.
So, how much snow can be made in an hour?
At the ideal snowmaking conditions of a 20 degree wet bulb...
- We pump 5200 gallons of water per minute
- Each gallon of water weighs 8.33 lbs
- Multiply the two (gals per min X weight) you get 43,316 lbs of water being turned into snow per minute
- Divide that number by 2000 (# of pounds in a ton) you get 21.66 tons of snow per minute
- Multiply that by 60 (minutes per hour) that's 1,300 tons of snow per hour!
Snowmakers and Groomers
The final touch in the snowmaking process is our staff! Our snowmakers and groomers are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be on the mountain, taking advantage of ideal conditions the moment they arrive. They work all night to prepare the mountain for you to enjoy skiing, riding and tubing. Even when we don't get to make snow on a certain night, the grooming staff will be hard at work all night to get the slopes looking and feeling like there is a nice fresh coat of snow - look at that corduroy!
There is a lot that goes into snowmaking here at Liberty, with several departments and millions of dollars in equipment working together. It all starts with Mother Natures blessing us with ideal snowmaking conditions...so get ready, because she can't hold out too much longer!