BURNSVILLE, MINN. - When skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes, they're probably not thinking about how the snow got there. But there is science behind the snow-making, and at Buck Hill, it's in overdrive.
"We'll make it as much as we can, as often as we can," says Operations Manager and snow-making expert Jac Papineau.
The snow making team is constantly monitoring weather conditions, paying special attention to what is known as the wet bulb temperature, which factors in the relationship between temperature and humidity.
Papineau explains, "The lower the humidity, the warmer the air temperature can be, if the humidity is higher, the colder the ambient air temperature has to be."
Fans propel water droplets into the air, which has to be below freezing. In fact, the colder the better!
"The colder the ambient air temperature, the faster the heat will dissipate from the water droplet to make it freeze, so the colder it gets the more water, the more volume we can put through each snow gun," he adds.
For example, on a day that's 20 degrees with 70 percent humidity, these machines are each using 24 gallons of water per minute. Over a season that adds up to 13.5 million gallons of water!
Nozzles keep that water under high pressure, which is a big part of the process in itself.
"The more pressure, the smaller we can make the droplet the faster we can get it to freeze," again explains Papineau.
The 10.5" Buck Hill received on Sunday compacts to only 1.5" on the slopes, but with advanced technology, you might now know the difference.
"They look like very very small ice cubes."
Operators like Papineau can control the quality and moisture content of the snow. They start with wetter snow that packs better to establish a base. After that, they make more of a fine powder for skiers.
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