Ski N.H. snowmaking crews turn State House plaza into winter wonderland

  • John Cutter, a snowmaker at Pats Peak ski area in Henniker, is covered with artificial snow after checking the water content of the snow Ski New Hampshire was making outside the State House on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A snow making gun spreads snow in front of the statue of John Stark at the State House as Ski New Hampshire showed off the latest technology and talked with legislators as they arrived on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Workers adjust a snowmaking gun on the grounds of the State House as Ski New Hampshire showed off the lastest snow technology and talked with lawmakers about the ski industry Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Snowmakers from around New Hampshire set up a snow gun on the State House lawn as Ski Newhampshire set up a demonstration for legislators and passerbys on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/16/2019 2:02:27 PM

New Hampshire’s ski reports showed off their snow-making prowess in an unusual place Wednesday: in front of the State House.

Representatives of a half-dozen ski areas, organized by the industry association Ski N.H., were in Concord to talk about snowmaking and to show an air-water gun in action, turning the State House plaza much whiter than Mother Nature has done.

They were there partly to remind lawmakers about the importance of the industry to the state’s economy, and partly to remind skiers that even when there’s relatively little natural snow, technology can fill the gap.

Artificial snow has been made by winter resorts since 1952, when a Catskills resort became the first to use the recently invented snow gun. In theory, the system has changed very little since then, although changing details have vastly improved snowmaking.

Snow is made by blowing water into the air as it breaks into small droplets, which freeze into snowflakes. These days the water is often mixed with a material, usually a biodegradable bacteria, that acts as a nucleus for snowflakes to form around, creating better snowflakes in a wider range of conditions.

Snow can be made if the temperature is as warm as 39 degrees as long as the humidity is very low, but for obvious reasons it is easier to make snow and the quality is better if the air temperature is below freezing. It can’t be too cold, however. If it drops below 20 degrees, proper snowflakes won’t form.

Most New Hampshire ski areas offer snowmaking on virtually all of their groomed trails.

Snowmaking is usually the second-biggest expense for ski areas after labor costs. Access to good water supply for making snow can be a limiting factor in any area’s plans for expansion or when to open.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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