Winter Park draws its (snow) guns
If you find yourself on the Upper Parkway between Gemini and Arrow on a particularly cold night, your ears may catch the lowing of an elusive monster, just recently awoken from the depths of its summer hibernation.
Your eyes may glimpse the diaphanous cloud of its icy breath.
By December, your edges will certainly feel its frigid grip.
Yes, Winter Park has fired up the snow guns.
The resort started making snow Tuesday night, Oct. 14, said the resort’s snowmaking foreman Jeremy Golnik.
The resort used a metric called wet bulb temperature, which factors in relative humidity, to decide that it was prime time to make snow, Golnik said.
“We’re really looking for 27 degrees or below to start making snow,” Golnik said. “Everything above that is just marginal, and you’re not really making snow. You’re making a soggy mess.”
The resort is currently making snow, when temperatures permit, on the Upper Parkway, working its way down toward Village Way.
“It’s high traffic areas where it doesn’t really matter how much natural snow you get,” Golnik said. “It’s always getting skied away by the skiers. We put the manmade stuff first so it has a bullet proof layer.”
Current operations are utilizing between 20 and 25 guns from the resort’s arsenal, which numbers around 40, Golnik said. Most of these are high-pressure guns.
These types of snow guns coalesce around 400 psi of water and 100 psi of air. Add cold temperatures and a process called nucleation, and you’ve got snow.
In particularly cold temperatures, Winter Park’s guns can churn out around 150 gallons of snow per minute.
It takes between one and two hours to get all of the guns turned on, and snowmakers constantly monitor weather conditions.
“When it gets really cold out, sometimes the guys are out in the field for 4 hours at a time,” Golnik said.
It’s these long hours and the cold that are the most challenging parts of Golnik’s job he said.
Snowmaking operations are contingent upon the wet bulb temperature and other conditions, Golnik said, so guns will only be running on cold nights for the immediate future.
The resort is currently on schedule to make its Nov. 12 opening day, said Steve Hurlbert, the resort’s communications director.
When that day comes, skiers and snowboarders can take solace in the fact that professionals like Golnik, now in his 12th season at Winter Park, have built a solid foundation for this season’s shreddage.
“The people here who’ve been doing it,” Hurlbert said, “I think they’re some of the best you’ll find.”
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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