The ingredients for snowmaking are water, air and cold. The diagram below shows how compressed air and cold water must be combined to break up the water into tiny particles that turn to ice and then snow as they come into contact with cold air. The combination of air and water depends on the outside temperature; the colder the air temperature, the less compressed air needed and vice versa.
In 2007 Efficiency Vermont hired Sno-matic Controls and Engineering to conduct a controlled test of Bolton’s snowmaking operations. Because of this study we purchased 20 new HKD snow guns. HKD snowguns are more efficient than regular snow guns because more water pressure is used in the system, which means that less compressed air needs to be used. We positioned the HKDs low on the mountain to maximize their water pressure and therefore, efficiency. The tower design of the HKDs allows water to be expelled 10-30 feet higher than the standard snowgun so less compressed air is needed to diffuse the water because it has more airtime to fall and crystallize.
The same year, we also rebuilt both of the pumps at the Timberline snowmaking pump house that pump water to the snow guns and purchased a new electric Atlas air compressor. This compressor runs constantly during snowmaking and two back-up diesel
compressors are rented to provide the rest of the compressed air needed during peak snowmaking times.
In 2008 we continued to improve based on Sno-matic’s findings. Increasing the size of a mile of our snowmaking water pipe from 4 to 6 inches increased our pumping capacity to 1000 gallons per minute. We purchased 2 SMI Super Polecat fan guns to replace the less efficient Ratnik snow guns in the terrain parks. These two snowguns are permanent but we also have two portable SMIs. SMI snowmakers are more efficient because they use fans to throw the snow up to 150 feet into the air. Their electronic on-board compressor does not need to be connected to the main compressed air line, it can simply be plugged into a 480 volt electrical socket.
In 2009 we retrofitted 12 of our Ratnik snow guns with efficient heads. This retrofit resulted in significant electric and fuel savings as well as a noticeable improvement in the quality of snow production during poor snowmaking conditions. The success of the 2009 retrofit encouraged us to retrofit the remaining 10 Ratnik snow guns in 2011 and now almost all of our snowguns are high efficiency.
The savings from these improvements have already paid for themselves and more. Not to mention the environmental savings of 176,291 kWh and 171 tons of CO2 per year! The increased efficiency of our snowmaking operation now allows us to run more guns at once because each one now requires less compressed air. More available air mean means that there is more air to pump water and more snow can be made, which is a good thing for everyone!