Ski resorts invest in efficient snow-making

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A snow gun makes fresh snow at the Stowe resort in Stowe, Vt. Ski areas across the Northeast are making big investments in high-efficiency snow-making to save money and open more trails.  TOBY TALBOT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOBY TALBOT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A snow gun makes fresh snow at the Stowe resort in Stowe, Vt. Ski areas across the Northeast are making big investments in high-efficiency snow-making to save money and open more trails.

STOWE, Vt. — Ski areas across New England have spent big bucks on low-energy, high-efficiency snow-making to ensure the slopes are snow-covered earlier and longer after a dismal season last year.

At this time last year, Stowe Mountain Resort had six trails open. This year the resort opened a week earlier than in 2011, with nearly double the number of trails thanks to $4.7 million in snow-making improvements.

“This summer was a big expansion for us, and it’s already paying dividends,” said Michael Manley, the mountain operations manager, who says the resort is making twice as much snow as before. This summer, Stowe added 325 energy-efficient snow tower guns, replaced 150 of the land snow guns with more efficient ones and put in 16 fan guns.

Like other resorts using the high-efficiency technology, Stowe is spending less money to do it, eliminating more than 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year.

Maine’s Sunday River spent $1 million this summer to install 300 new snow guns that will cover 15 of the resort’s most popular trails. Now it has at least six trails open, compared to just two at this time last year.

“So we’ve opened more terrain at a faster rate,” said Darcy Morse, the director of communications.

In New Hampshire, Ragged Mountain in Danbury has added 100 low-energy, high-efficiency tower snow guns. Mount Sunapee in Newbury bought another 14, bringing its total to 72.

Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont also spent more than $1 million, adding 150 of the tower guns and other snow-making enhancements; Bromley has installed 60 of the snow guns over the top of the mountain; and Burke Mountain Resort, which was acquired by the owner of Jay Peak, has added 150 of the snow guns and replaced its diesel compressors with an electric compressor, allowing it to open the day after Thanksgiving, two weeks earlier than it typically does.

“It’s a big change in the way we operate and our ability to open up earlier and then also recover from warming events during the season,” said Tim McGuire, the general manager, who projects the resort will save about 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel over the season.

“What’s really nice about these guns is they take a fraction of the energy to make the same amount of snow as some of the older technology. Not only do we add additional coverage with some more guns at Burke but we also reduce the amount of energy it requires to make that snow,” he said.

The move is critical for a resort that needs to thrive in mid- to late December, one of its busiest times of year, said Jeff Wise, Stowe’s marketing and communications director.


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