Vermont's Okemo Invests In Low-Energy Snowmaking Technology; Early Season Boost
Ski areas like Vermont's Okemo Mountain Resort are looking for the best of all worlds when it comes to snowmaking: make the most snow, in the least amount of time, reducing their use of electricity while being as sustainable as possible.To that end the technology is there to help them achieve those goals.
Okemo officials have announced they will continue that mission over the next few months by infusing $1 million in time for guests to see a difference in 2013-2014.
Operation Snowburst is being viewed by mountain management as a game changer. A total of 225 new tower guns, coupled with improvements in pumps and pipeline, is Okemo’s most significant snowmaking upgrade in 30 years.
That’s saying something for the area that has long received high marks for its snow surfaces. It will be particularly noticeable in November.
“Okemo has been experimenting with the HKD SV tower guns for a couple of seasons with great success,” Okemo’s Bonnie MacPherson told SnoCountry.com. “This investment is going to allow us to offer Okemo's skiers and riders more terrain with more variety earlier in the season.”
The added tower guns bring the total, mountain-wide, to 1,025 in addition to 325 other types of snowmaking devices.
MacPherson said Okemo will need just a little cooperation with natural snow to illustrate an increase in snow production with no increase in energy consumption. The resort hopes to offer more skiing and riding on opening day than it has in the past.
Their numbers research is noteworthy: with temperatures in the mid-20s, Okemo could move 2,000 gallons of water per minute through their snowmaking system. Under ideal conditions and temperatures, that figure, according to snowmaking manager Ray Kennedy, jumps to 7,000 to 9,000 gallons.
The capital investment also addresses some other matters. First, there’s the convenience issue as now Okemo feels it can forego the shuttling and downloading of patrons in those first weeks.
Secondly, “It will allow us to add terrain more quickly as the season progresses, and recover more efficiently when less-than-favorable weather events occur throughout the season,” MacPherson said.
Strategic placement of the new HKD SV snowguns will allow Okemo to open with several top-to-bottom routes along the most desirable trails, including Countdown, Upper World Cup, Lower World Cup, Sapphire, Rt. 103, Upper Arrow, Lower Arrow, Lower Mountain Road and Fairway.
Additional early season snowmaking efforts will focus on trails that link to Jackson Gore’s Lower Limelight, Fast Track and Inn Bound, where new HKD tower guns will be installed as part of the snowmaking upgrade.
“Based on average November temperatures, Okemo typically opens with limited terrain on four to six trails,” said Vice President and General Manager Bruce Schmidt. "This year, if we get some good snowmaking weather, Okemo plans to launch the season with nearly 100 acres and the ability to increase that number quickly as the start of the season progresses.”
Photo: Okemo tower snow guns (Okemo Mountain Resort)