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Lake Effect Snowfall Is 'Snowmaking' On The Cheap
It’s the frugal kind of artificial snow but, unfortunately, it’s not available to the entire ski world. Such a pity, because it needs no water, pipelines or compressed air to produce.
It skis like real snow – very powdery, actually - but it’s really not real. It’s lake effect snow.
Described by meteorologists as cold air flowing over warm water creating instability in the atmosphere, lake effect snow, in this region on the lee of the Great Lakes, can dump copious amounts of white gold in a very short period of time.
Just ask regions around Cleveland, Buffalo, western Pennsylvania and in the Tug Hill Plateau south of Watertown, N.Y., an area that collected 15 inches of “fake” fluff in recent days. West Leyden, N.Y., about 15 minutes from the trails of Snow Ridge and an hour’s drive to McCauley Mountain in Old Forge, piled up 13 inches.
The best aspect of lake effect dumps is that they arrive early in the season – late fall to early winter – while the water remains warm and kick-starts the season. Once the water temperatures cool and ice begins to form, this unique weather system goes dormant.
“Even this morning, we are seeing light snow,” National Weather Service meteorologist Erik Heden told SnoCountry.com on Tuesday. “This is prime season for lake effect. And it’s a light, dry snow that compresses easily.”
Does that sound like powder days to you? It was certainly welcomed in snow country as ski and ride areas, one by one, have started churning lifts for the season.
“The start of snowmaking over the weekend coincided with the arrival of lake effect snowfall,” said Anna Weltz, Seven Springs (PA) Mountain Resort Communications Manager. “The weather and snowmaking will speed up opening day.” She further told us, on Saturday night, “We are getting lots of bands of lake effect passing through.”
Holiday Valley, 53 miles south of Buffalo in Ellicottville, N.Y., attracts the western New York ski and ride market as well as metro Toronto. The resort also relies on the lake effect snow "machine" as well as their artificial snowmaking system. Thus far, seven inches of lake effect snow has been deposited there.
“The bands are set up just right to give us lots of snow over the next few days,” said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley Marketing Director. “We started making snow Saturday using our new automated system on three new slopes, plus two more and are hoping to open this weekend, weather permitting.”
The timing of the arrival of these bands could not be better as Holiday Valley is looking to attract throngs Dec.15. That’s when they officially debut their new 66,000-square-foot structure that will serve as its base lodge in winter as well as a four-season conference center.
Meanwhile, Laura Argenbright, Marketing Manager at Hidden Valley, Pa. tells SnoCountry.com “mountain crews fired up the guns and started snowmaking efforts on Saturday. With a boost from several inches of natural lake effect snow, the resort is planning to open with limited skiing later this week.”
“Black Friday became White Saturday,” added Hidden Valley's Maggie Samole, who was busy over the weekend distributing the good news. The resort’s TechnoAlpin system has been displaying its increased snowmaking capacity, pumping 20 percent more snow than in past years.
Meteorologist Heden concluded by predicting the lake effect “machine” will continue cranking for about another four to six weeks.
Photo: Holiday Valley, N.Y.