Ski areas across the region have been dealing with some less than ideal weather this week. Recent rainfall followed by a cold snap has left any untouched snow hard and crusty. However, places like Mount Snow are using their grooming equipment to help make the best possible conditions.
"The grooming has been excellent. The runs we've done so far have been soft on the bottom and I have no complaints for this time of year," said Daniel Delprete of Warwick, R.I.
"This was nothing but hardpack yesterday. They ground it up, moved it around and it's almost skiable. But it's better than a day in the office," said Jim McGuire of East Greenwich, R.I.
While grooming is certainly helping conditions on the more than 15 trails open at Mount Snow, their snowmaking system is even more important; it covers about 80 percent of the mountain.
"One of the great things about our snowmaking system is just with the high-output nature of the fanguns that are lining our primary trails, we can recover from inclement weather such as this very quickly," said David Meeker of Mount Snow.
The snowmaking process starts by pumping water through pipes that go up the mountain to a fangun. Each gun has a fan that's powered by electricity. Around each fan is a set of small nozzles that spray water into the fan stream of air. But before any snow is made, the water needs a place to start the condensation process.
"There's a small compressor built into the fangun, as well, that brings air into the nucleator. It's a small nozzle right in the center that starts the nucleus making of snow," said David Moulton of Mount Snow.
Once the mist meets the nucleator and exits the fangun, it freezes and produces snow. These fanguns not only save energy compared to conventional snow guns, but also produce a drier snow. This has to do with the large amount of time the snow stays suspended in the air before reaching the ground. Skiers and riders say these fanguns are great.
"The new guns have made all the difference in the world with skiing at the beginning and end on the season. It's made huge change," Delprete said.
When the weather cooperates, fanguns can produce a lot of snow. Temperatures in the lower teens coupled with low humidity can yield as much as 2.5 times the amount of snow produced versus a conventional snow gun.
While there's no doubt that fanguns have improved the quality of manmade snow, many believe there's still nothing like the natural stuff.
An early look at the extended forecast shows the potential for some type of snow event later in the weekend or early next week.
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