snow ice machine

Artificial Snow 2-2

The Manufacturing Process

The production of artificial snow requires a series of devices that can move water and air up the mountain, combine them with a nucleating material, and spray them into the air as small droplets. Typically, the system is installed during the summer months and operated at night after the slopes have closed.

Installation of the system

  • 1 Artificial snow making requires an entire system to be installed on the mountain slope. This system includes a series of water pipes, electric cables, pumps, and compressors in addition to the snow making machines. First, plans showing the layout of the system are drawn. Then the water pipes and cables are laid in long trenches traversing the entire slope. The trenches must be dug significantly deep so water does not freeze during the winter months. At various points along the water line, valves and hoses are installed to bring water to the surface. Hay bales are placed around them for protection.

Mixing water with other components

  • 2 Snow making is typically done at night and requires constant monitoring. It is typically only done when the outdoor temperature is 28° F (-2.2° C) or below. A number of snow machines are hooked up to the water lines all the way up the slope. When the machines are turned on, the snow making process begins. The water is first pumped up the mountain to the various machines. Depending on the type of machine, water may be mixed with the nucleating material prior to pumping or when it first enters the machine.

Creating the snow

  • 3 The water is then mixed with compressed air and pumped through a high powered fan. The fan can spray the mixture nearly 60 ft (18.3 m) into the air. As it leaves the machine, the water crystallizes and forms snow. The snow is piled-up is large mounds known as whales. At this point, the snow may be analyzed and the machines are adjusted to produce the best quality snow.
  • 4 When a pile of artificial snow is significantly high, the snow making machine is turned off. At optimal performance, a snow machine can produce enough snow to cover an acre in about 2 hours. The whale is then allowed to set or cure, for two to three days. This lets the excess water drain off and helps produce softer snow.

Moving the snow

  • 5 After the curing process, the snow pile is ready for grooming. Using a special plough, the snow is smoothed out onto the skiing surface. While it is being moved, it is sent through a tilling device. This fluffs up the snow, making it more skiable.

Quality Control

Producing artificial snow that is as good as or better than natural snow requires significant quality control measures. Prior to production, the nucleating material is checked to ensure that it meets the appropriate specifications. While the snow is being made, it is analyzed for crystal quality, appearance, and wetness. The air/water ratio may be adjusted to improve the quality of the snow. If the snow is of the highest quality, it will last longer, hold its shape better, and be easier to groom.

The Future

The shortcomings of the current artificial snow-making technology suggest possible improvements in the future. Currently, the noise generated by these machines is a problem. While attempts have been made to reduce the sound, future machines will be even quieter. Another limitation of the snow-making machines is their narrow temperature range of operation. New machines may be able to produce snow at temperatures over 28° F (-2.2° C). These machines may also produce higher quality snow in less time.



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