The Boston Globe's business section has an article on Tenney Mountain's summer snow:
The printed story has a nice graphic explanation on how the snow is made, if you can get a hard copy. Because their links usually only work the day the paper is out (or maybe the next day) before they make you pay to see the full story, I also included the story below (without graphics, which are not on-line).
-BG (ps: Thanks again, Dave, for the Avatar, etc.!)
Technology offering flakes in the summer may be white gold for winter sports industry
By Scott Kirsner, 7/28/2003
an Egan thrives on doing the implausible. Egan grew up in Milton and went on to become one of the planet's best-known extreme skiers. As a featured player in a dozen Warren Miller documentaries, including ''Endless Winter,'' Egan ripped up remote peaks that hadn't been skied before in Siberia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and the Arctic. He once jumped out of the aerial tram at Cannon Mountain in New Hamp-
shire, his skis on and perfectly parallel. This summer, skiing's emperor of the implausible is onto something new. He's running a small ski area in Plymouth, N.H., using a new technology that allows snow to be made regardless of the temperature outside. The ski area Egan now manages, Tenney Mountain, was open on July Fourth weekend for snow tubing and limited snowboarding, in 90-degree weather. Call it ''EndlessWinter: The Sequel.''
It's the first time the Japanese-developed technology, called Infinite Crystal Snowmaking, is being used in the United States.
''This will have wide effects on the winter sports industry,'' Egan predicts, making it possible for ski areas to open earlier in the year. It could also bring snow sports to urban areas, in venues like baseball stadiums and amusement parks. Tenney Mountain, Egan explains, is being used as a showcase for the technology, which turns the traditional snow-making process on its head.
Here's how traditional snow making works. During the winter, when the air temperature is below freezing, ski areas blow compressed air and water through special nozzles. The tiny, aerated water droplets freeze as they hang in the cold air, then fall to the ground as artificial flakes.
The technology being used this summer at Tenney reverses that process. Water is chilled first, then frozen into thin sheets of ice inside a small building that looks like an electric sub-station. The ice is then broken into tiny pieces, and, with the help of compressed air, also cooled to snow-friendly temperatures. It is sprayed through a long plastic hose onto the mountain.
Tenney's Infinite Crystal Snowmaking system is capable of producing as much as 50 tons of snow over 24 hours. It uses less water than traditional systems, but far more electricity. Because it can make snow regardless of the air temperature, it's called temperature-independent snow making.
Depending on the volume of snow it's capable of making, an ICS system can cost anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million. The system can make flakes of almost any size, down to 0.3 millimeters. For the summer, though, bigger flakes are better because they last longer.
''The biggest question we get,'' Egan says, ''is, `Why doesn't it melt?' Well, it does melt. But it's just like when you pour a cooler of ice out on the parking lot. It takes a while. We're in the business of managing melt.''
Tenney Mountain was purchased last year by Snow Magic Entertainment Industries, a New Jersey company that has the rights to manufacture and sell the ICS system in the United States. Snow Magic brought in Egan to run the ski area. It had been closed during the 2001-2002 season, and was neglected for several seasons prior to that. The objective, Egan says, was to ''turn around a dormant ski area with the new technology.''
Tenney Mountain operated last winter without an ICS system on site, but Egan still managed to set a record for the highest number of tickets sold in a season. The system was supposed to show up in May -- in plenty of time to make snow for the Fourth of July holiday. But it was delayed for more than a month because of a longshoremen's strike in New Jersey.
When it arrived, the instructions were in Japanese. Luckily, several Japanese engineers were on hand to help with the installation. Says Egan: ''We wanted 10 days to make snow. We had four, and we were operating [the system] at 40 to 50 percent capacity.'' Evening temperatures were in the 70s, and daytime temps were in the 90s. But by the Fourth, the so-called ''Tenney Glacier'' was open for a ski and snowboard competition. About 200 skiers and snowboarders showed up.
To help make the first summer successful, Egan sought help from a group of MIT students who compete on the university's ski-racing team. They developed a sophisticated mathematical model that takes into account environmental factors like sun, wind, rain, ground temperature, and humidity to predict how fast Tenney's artificial snow will melt. It runs on a PC.
''We plug in our three-day [weather] forecast,'' Egan says, ''and it tells us how much snow will be lost, and what our production schedule should be -- how much snow we'll need to make to maintain the slope.''
This Saturday, the Glacier will be open for an evening of skiing and snowboarding, and special events will continue through August. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 12, one longer run will be opened for ski racing teams to practice on. Tenney is expecting a second, bigger ICS system -- capable of making at least 150 tons of snow a day -- to arrive sometime next month to help with that. Then, on Dec. 12, the entire mountain will open, with an assist from Mother Nature.
Say Egan: ''We want to have three seasons here: winter, summer, and fall.''
The challenge for Tenney and parent company Snow Magic will be demonstrating that the pricey new equipment can help draw a consistent stream of visitors in the summer and fall, justifying the expenditure. Other ski areas will be watching the Tenney experiment before they make their own investments. And Snow Magic is talking to other businesses that might use the ICS system, like the owners of minor league baseball stadiums.
''Once the baseball season is over,'' says Albert Bronander, the president of Snow Magic, ''these guys walk away and come back six months later. We want to turn the stadiums into a winter park, with a tubing run, and a half pipe, and a slope for ski lessons. Parents could drop their kids off for a few hours, and go do some errands. The idea is to bring the mountains to the masses.''
Bronander won't be more specific, but he says he's talking to a baseball stadium in the Boston area, which could be operational as early as this November.
When I visited Tenney last week, there wasn't much snow -- there had been a downpour the prior day, and Egan explained that ''rain is a killer.'' But a Tenney employee was standing next to the tubing trough, the white snow-delivery hose draped over his shoulders, directing the flow of snow into the run. The hose coughed out snow for 60 seconds, then paused for half a minute as more snow was made, then started up again. The flakes were big, and the texture of the snow was sharp, crunchy, and a little wet -- but ideal for snowball- or snowcone-making.
I'd brought my snowboard up, and with Egan's OK I decided to test the snow. But first I had to climb up the hill, since the handle-tow lift wasn't running. I'd broken into a full sweat by the time I sat down to strap on my board. Plastic tarps covered most of the snow to protect it from the sun, but a small area -- about 10 yards long and three yards wide -- was exposed. I took two very short runs, the second time wrecking into the folded tarps that were bunched at the bottom of the slope.
It was nice snow -- equal to what you'd encounter on a typical spring day in New England. And for a 78-degree day in July, it was implausibly good snow.