This is the time of year when we are all anxiously waiting for Okemo to announce its opening date, keeping an eye on weather patterns, and making a point to look up at the mountain to see it make the slow change to the winter wonderland we all love.❄️ We are hopeful Okemo will announce Opening Day soon, and we figured you would all appreciate an update on what the snowmaking scene is looking like. That's why your favorite ex-snowmaker, Noah, is here to enlighten you on what it takes to prepare the mountain for the season. Before we get too far, we want to give a shout-out to our new Patrons. Victor Gangi, Anamarie Rojas, and Scott (SeaBass_NJ), we appreciate you! If you like our reports Patreon is the best way to support us! 💪
Like most ski areas on the East Coast, Okemo is heavily dependent on man-made snow to open and stay open for the whole season. While snowmaking ensures Okemo is not dependent on natural snow it doesn't mean Mother Nature doesn't have a say. We still need the correct temperature to turn water into snow. 🌡️
When you live here long enough you get good at identifying trails from the village. We can see they have been making snow at the Summit, Countdown, Upper World Cup, and Lower Chief which will allow top-to-bottom skiing for opening day. We have also seen some action on Upper Sapphire, Upper Arrow, and Lower Arrow. ⛷️ We expect these areas to be the first runs open from the summit with more trails being added as snowmaking allows.
Snowmaking may seem like a simple process, wait for the thermometer to drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, open a spigot and you have snow, but it's not that simple. First off Okemo has miles of snowmaking pipe, air compressors, pump stations, and retaining pods that are all needed to make this operation possible. Plus, you can't forget the people needed to ensure everything runs smoothly. Before we dive into some of the details we want to give a huge shoutout to all the men and women who make this possible. It is not an easy job and you don't always get the recognition you deserve so from all of us at Unofficial Okemo we see you and appreciate the hard work, long hours, and extreme weather you undertake to allow us to play all winter long. ⛄️
Alright, back to some of the details. The air temperature is just one piece of what is needed to make snow, humidity is also a huge factor, so snowmaking uses "wet-bulb temperature", a combination of air temperature and humidity to, determine when they can make snow. There are a lot of calculations that go into this but for our purposes, we just need to know that if the humidity is low we can make snow at a warmer air temperature. Now that we know when we can make snow we want to look at how they turn water into snow. We all know that water typically freezes into ice, not snow, so how do the ski areas get around this? The process is very important: air pressure, water pressure, and the snow gun all work together to turn water into snow. 🔫
The different types of snow guns use different processes but they all spray water in extremely fine droplets which allow them to freeze before falling to the ground. Each type of gun has their benefits and ideal working parameters and that is why you see tower guns, fan guns, and ground guns being used all over the mountain. Regardless of the gun the goal is to create small water droplets which allows the water to freeze into small pellets that mimic natural snow crystals. ❄️ We will be providing more information on snowmaking in the coming weeks as the mountain opens and we add terrain to the trail count.
Before I leave you let's take a quick look at the weather forecast and what snowmaking potential there is. Today and tomorrow look to have some good potential with temperatures in the low 20s overnight but as we head into the week temperatures are expected to rise with some borderline snowmaking temps in the evening. This isn't the best forecast but we know the mountain ops team will be monitoring conditions carefully and take advantage of any window they have. I hope you found some of this educational, it won't be long until I am giving you updates on the hill! 🏔️
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