According to Peter Harding, our Ski Area Manager at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, the science behind making snow is simple; “14 snow guns + 15 million gallons of water + cold weather = white fluffy snow”. Although Peter makes it sound simple it actually adds up to 50 days of around the clock snowmaking, equating to a manmade base of approximately two feet. To get the best possible conditions Mother Nature needs a bit of help, a push in the right direction and a jolt of winter! This combination of Mom’s finest coating and snowmaking = 110 days of great skiing and boarding at Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Area.
We often hear comparisons between the snow of snowmaking and the snow from Mother Nature as they both have pros and cons because of their different consistencies. It is true that Mother Nature does a fine job with her white fluffy champagne powder; however, many resorts rely on snowmaking to allow them to open sooner or even provide desirable race conditions, which are ideal in manmade snow. At Fairmont Hot Springs we use a combination of two M-18 fan guns, four V3 lances, three PoleCat’s and five Highland snow guns to provide the perfect powdery conditions that we have all grown to love in the Rockies.
The snowmaking devices described above sound very scientific, so let’s think of them in human terms. The M-18’s, PoleCats, and Highland’s are all a type of fan gun, which are basically what the name suggests. They’re oversized tubes, like a massive pop can cut in half. Inside the tube, water and air are combined, and a fan pushes the resulting mixture into the air, which crystallizes and falls on the slopes as snow. These fan guns can be moved around to many different locations to make sure snow is where it needs to be. The lance gun is what Peter Harding describes as a “stick gun”. Without a fan these guns drop snow, rather than throw it and are kept in a more permanent location where snowmaking frequently occurs.
All this technology is very promising, but it really is a combination of our gift from Mother Nature and the art of snowmaking to make our favorite white fluffy snow.