Ski Season Starts Early With Innovative Snow-Making Technology

November 22, 2013; 1:34 AM ET
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Ski resorts' business runs entirely on the abundance of snow. But what is the plan when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate?

Technology has advanced enough to allow them to create artificial snow - padding Mother Nature's bounty to the delight of skiers and snowboarders everywhere.

Anna Cole, communications manager at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, Wyo., said, "The technological advances in snow-making have really helped the ski industry be able to stick to open days that they have published."

Arching turns on a sunny Jackson Hole day. Credit: Flickr/Jackson Hole Central Reservations

But to create the snow, three elements are still needed: low temperatures, water and compressed air.

For ideal snow-making, temperatures need to be below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

"You can make snow at 28 degrees or cooler, but that is not the ideal temperature to make snow. The colder, the better," Cole explained.

When the temperatures are optimal, water is fed through snow guns which utilize compressed air to create snow. Skiers may notice some slight differences in the artificial snow as compared to natural snowfall.

"You can definitely tell the difference. [Artificial snow] holds moisture differently. Sometimes it will get scratchier. It will get icier than natural snow," Cole said.

Differences aside, creating artificial snow allows skiers to get a jump-start before the first snowfall and optimize their time on the slopes. The main purpose of these snow guns is to create a base in the early ski season - late October to January for Western resorts.

When conditions are ideal during these times, Cole said, "We are blowing snow 24 hours a day."

A snow gun. Credit: Flickr/Tim in Sydney

After January ends, the ski resorts usually have enough natural snow to sustain the base for the rest of the ski season.

Looking forward, Cole hopes snow-making will become an ever greater asset to Jackson Hole.

"There has been tons of innovations in terms of efficiency and how they've automated these very complex systems. We've invested significantly in our snow-making systems over the past few years and will continue to do so."

Due to their snow making capabilities, the Western Jackson Hole Ski Resort will be opening on Thanksgiving Day this year.

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