A Sustainable Approach to Snowmaking
Expansion and efficiency are two key words in describing future snowmaking plans at Steamboat Resort. As part of Full Steam Ahead, Steamboat Resort is not only expanding their snowmaking capabilities to cover additional terrain, but they are doing so with the most efficient and sustainable equipment on the market.
While the work is already underway, completion of on-mountain snowmaking improvements is slated for the start of the 2023-2024 ski season. Sunshine Bowl and Greenhorn Ranch are the two additional areas of focus in terms of snowmaking expansion. These two areas are pivotal when it comes to holiday guests, and having snowmaking equipment to open the slopes earlier, regardless of whether or not the snow is falling, will be a huge improvement to Steamboat Resort.
For the 2022-2023 ski season, the new ski school area at Greenhorn Ranch, located in the previous Rough Rider/Bashor Basin area, will be covered by new and highly efficient snowmaking equipment. The snowmaking capacity for the 2022-2023 ski season will remain the same, but it will cover that additional terrain. It will take another year to get everything in place, and by the 2023-2024 ski season, snowmaking equipment will be present in the Sunshine Bowl area as well, and Steamboat Resort’s snowmaking capacity will expand at that point. Within the Sunshine Bowl area, Tomahawk, Sundial, Upper and Lower High Noon, Spike and part of Daybreak will all be covered by new and efficient snowmaking equipment.
Currently, a new water supply line is being put into place from the base area to Greenhorn Ranch, and then will continue up Heavenly Daze to the Rainbow Saddle. That work is expected to be completed by this summer/fall. It will take another summer/fall season to run those supply lines from the Rainbow Saddle down Moonlight and to the bottom of Elkhead, where there will be a new blockhouse, which is where multiple pipes come together with valving. A new pumphouse will be going in near Rendezvous Lodge (exact location TBD) to control the new snowmaking equipment that will be installed in the Sunshine Bowl area next year.
While natural snowfall is always the hope, it is sometimes not the reality. It takes 40 inches on the ground (which means more than 40 inches of total snowfall when you consider melting/evaporation rates) to safely open a ski slope. Often in Steamboat Springs we get the infamous champagne powder® that we all love, but when it comes to packing a base, manmade snow is much more dense and can last much longer. By adding snowmaking equipment to Greenhorn Ranch and the Sunshine Bowl, the snowmaking team will be able to better control the density of the snow needed to provide 40 inches on the ground, which ultimately will allow for more terrain to open earlier in the ski season.
All new snowmaking equipment that is being put into place is the most efficient and sustainable equipment on the market. In order to make snow, you need to be able to pump water and create air, which is what creates the energy output. Without going into too much technical detail, the newer and more efficient equipment is able to pump more water with less air, ultimately creating less energy output. The newer pipes are also smoother and 20% more efficient over the course of 5 years as there is no friction loss when compared to older and rougher pipes.
Not only is the snowmaking equipment efficient and sustainable, but it is also impressively smart. Each snowmaking gun will have its own weather station and will be able to control itself based on the weather conditions, which are constantly changing. That will allow for the snowmaking team to optimally produce snow more efficiently when the conditions are just right.
When it comes to snowmaking, there is no guarantee. However, with additional and more efficient snowmaking equipment, Steamboat Resort will have more control when it comes to opening certain terrain. Weather is the constant variable, and you do need the right conditions to make snow, but with smarter snowmaking technology in place, the snowmaking team will have the resources they need to open more terrain earlier in the season than in past years.
Enhancing the guests’ experience is the ultimate goal, and with snowmaking expansion and efficiency, Steamboat Resort is well on its way to capturing that goal.
Written by Erin Campbell