New snow guns increase snow making efficiency at Lutsen Mountains
The purchase of 32 new SMI Pole Cat snow guns has doubled Lutsen’s fleet of high-efficiency guns, which use less electricity and water, but make more snow. These snowmaking machines are each equipped with their own mini weather stations, which measure temperature and humidity to automatically adjust the optimum mixture of air and water flow.
“Having twice as many high-efficiency snow machines will double the amount of snow we can make during November and early December when temperatures are often between 20 and 30 degrees,” said Mark Buckman, snowmaking manager at Lutsen. “The fan guns make great snow in these conditions, and these automated guns optimize the output as the temperature drops, making the most out of every minute of operation.”
Skiers and snowboarders will benefit from Lutsen’s new snowmaking technology, said Tom Rider, co-President of Lutsen Mountains. “We will recoup some of the cost through savings in energy and water consumption, but skiers will be the main beneficiaries as we expect better snow conditions and more runs open earlier,” Rider said.
“Combined with pump and pipe improvements planned for next year, we expect that our ability to be 100 percent open by mid-December will soon be the norm. The goal is not to make more snow, but rather to reduce the time it takes to make snow—less time, less electricity, less water,”
There are several different types of snow guns, but they are all based on the same principle. After the guns break water into small particles, the particles are cooled as they move rapidly through cold air, become nucleated and form snow crystals. In many ways, machine-made snow is actually more desirable than the natural stuff. Ten inches of natural snow, when it is packed, adds only about an inch to the snow base at a ski area, while 10 inches of machine-made snow adds about seven inches of base.
The new snowmaking equipment at Lutsen is also expected to boost Cook County’s economy, according to Sally Nankivell, executive director of the Cook County Visitors' Bureau. "Alpine skiers support our economy during the winter months,” said Nankivell.
Already benefiting from the new snow guns is the Cook County Alpine Ski team, which began practice on Ullr last week. Alpine Coach Jim Vick said he had the team on Ullr on Saturday, November 17 and he thought it might be too crowded as it was the first run open. “It was fine. We were able to do some drills and we got a great start on the season,” he said.