Skiing Tahoe in August? Woodward Tahoe making snow all summer long
New snow technology is helping portions of Boreal Ski Resort stay open into the summer season
SODA SPRINGS, Calif. —On Monday, May 9, though the sun was splashing onto the Sierra Nevada and temperatures were north of 60 degrees, one could find a small section of terrain in the Truckee-Tahoe region where new snow was falling, perfect conditions for skiing Tahoe.
Thanks to innovative technology, that is.
With a snow gun firing onto growing snow-mounds the last two weeks, Woodward Tahoe — located high on Donner Summit at North Shore’s Boreal Mountain Resort — is the first recreation destination in North America to use a snowfactory, a snow-making system for above-freezing temperatures.
“We’ve been trying to have the best snow product possible for summer the last few years,” said Shaydar Edelmann, vice president of operations and development at Boreal. “It’s been very challenging in the drought.”
Not any longer.
Simply put, the snowfactory — which can operate in any temperature, unlike traditional snowmaking machines requiring it to be under 28 degrees — will keep fresh snow on the slopes all summer long at Woodward Tahoe, home of indoor and outdoor action-sports summer camps geared toward youth ages 7-17.
“We pride ourselves on being innovative and this is a classic example of that,” Edelmann said. “And we’re thrilled to be the first in North America to put it on the ground and make snow with it.”
Bolstered by its snowfactory, this summer Woodward will host an eight-week lift-accessed snow camp starting June 12, 2016 allowing the public to ski Tahoe and enjoy the ideal conditions.
“We’re really excited,” said Tucker Norred, marketing and communications manager at Boreal. “Snowboarding during July and August in California is something that is almost unheard of. Combining that with Woodward Tahoe, we’ve already got some of the state-of-the-art facilities here and in all of North America.
“And combining that with our favorite sports — skiing and snowboarding — it definitely adds a new level of excitement for a lot of our guests.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Based on a refrigeration process akin to air conditioning, the snowfactory — which is the size of a large semi trailer — freezes and harvests water to produce very thin flakes of dry ice that are sprayed through a snow gun, just what you need for skiing Tahoe in warmer months.
“It doesn’t have latent moisture, so it’s coming out dry and cold,” said Edelmann, pointing to the existing snowpack on the ground. “Whereas the snow right now, it’s at that 32-degree mark and it’s trying to melt. This comes out with a 12-degree insulation factor before it starts melting.”
What’s more, the water used is completely clean and free of biological content.
The water, Edelmann said, comes from the resort’s snowmaking reservoir — an onsite pond — that gets filled with the same melting snow runoff that feeds into Castle Creek, a tributary of the Yuba River.
Therefore, it’s not impacting current drought conditions in the state of California.
“We divert [the runoff] to make snow with it,” Edelmann said. “And as soon as the snow does melt, it goes right back into the water supply.”
In all, the snowfactory churns out two tons of snow an hour, which over one day equates to a half-acre-foot per day, Edelmann said.
“Basically,” he added, “we’re looking to put about a foot of snow per week on the run that we’re going to have open.”
“Being able to put a fresh layer of snow on top totally changes your experience,” Norred said. “The quality is much higher when its coming out of that gun, and it’s fresh and it hasn’t been touched by dirt or anything else other than the machine it’s created from.”
BOOSTING THE ECONOMY
Along with bringing snowboarding and skiing Lake Tahoe to the summer months, Woodward’s snowfactory will also bring a boost to the economy, Norred said.
“These kids are now guaranteed jobs to work on the snow for eight weeks during the summer,” Norred said of camp counselors at Woodward.
In addition, come October, Boreal — which annually attempts to be the first Truckee-Tahoe resort to open — will have no problem hitting its targeted Halloween start thanks to its snowfactory which can provide Lake Tahoe winter conditions no matter the weather. This is great news for those who want to start skiing Tahoe as soon as possible.
“We always try and open really early and those are things that we have some control over,” Edelmann said. “Rather than needing the perfect storm and the perfect temperatures and the perfect season, we can control our own destiny.”
Originally published in the May 12, 2016, issue of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and regularly vetted for accuracy.
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