Dec 1, 2014 | Marmot, Winter 2014

Snowmaking looks feasible for Mount Washington

As Lower Mainland ski resorts make a big deal out of making snow, more people are asking whether snowmaking will be a reality at Mount Washington Alpine Resort anytime soon. The short answer, says Resort President Peter Gibson, is... “it’s possible.”

The issue gained traction at the Vancouver Island Resort last Winter after Mount Washington experienced an odd weather pattern, forcing a late opening and temporary mid-season closure before enough snow finally arrived to allow more consistent operation.

“The Resort was open for 82 snow days, where a regular season would be closer to 125–130, Resort Director of Business Development and Marketing,” Don Sharpe said.

“The Resort has done some ‘serious research’ into snowmaking in the off-season, examining source water and other technical issues,” Gibson said.

“We think we have answers that, going forward at some future date with new investors, we can be looking seriously at snowmaking. In the meantime, we spend time in summer grooming.”

Snow is made by shooting cold water at high pressure into the air out of specialized ‘snow cannons’ and freezing temperatures turn the water into snow.

Wayne Pierce, Art Hunt and Dave Richey developed a snowmaking system in 1950 using a paint spray compressor, nozzle and some garden hose. (Pierce later patented the method.)

“The system needs water, and the equipment is not cheap,” Sharpe said.

Grouse Mountain, on Vancouver’s North Shore, first used snowmaking equipment in the mid-1970s.

Snow guns at Whistler and Cypress mountains are part of those resorts’ legacies from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, held at Whistler and Vancouver, he added.

“Over the years we have looked at snow making a couple of times. It requires significant investment. We have to weigh that investment into the fact we’ve only needed snowmaking a few times in the course of our history,” Sharpe said.

“We need to review and make a decision whether snowmaking is something we want to do and whether it’s something we can do. Everything we’ve looked at in the last six to eight months shows we can make snow and we do have the water for it.”

The irony with more customers wanting snowmaking is it is usually used to have a guaranteed opening date.

“It’s not for making snow only when you don’t have it,” Gibson said. “Our average opening day over 35 years is the middle of December. Two years ago, three years ago we had a November opening and that was completely out of the norm.” Gibson added.

“Expectations need to be clear on what advantages snowmaking can give a resort, and what it cannot deliver,” Sharpe said.

“Snowmaking doesn’t get you from Sunrise all the way to the Hawk Chairlift. By putting snowmaking in you’re giving people the opportunity to ski, but it’s limited terrain, most likely one run.”

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