Does snowmaking effect the hydrologic cycle
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Does Snowmaking Effect the Hydrologic Cycle? - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Does Snowmaking Effect the Hydrologic Cycle?. Kelly Doyle Spring 2003. Why the Need for Snowmaking?. Good early season snow gives skier confidence Increases use during low snow seasons Provides good base for powder

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Why the Need for Snowmaking?

Good early season snow gives skier confidence

  • Increases use during low snow seasons

  • Provides good base for powder

  • Provides sustainable rate of growth for expansions such as new facilities and to enhance skiing experience

  • Stability for the local tourism based economy

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How is Snow Artificially Made?

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How is Snow Made?

  • Water Vapor sublimates into tiny ice crystals in atmosphere

  • 3 Factors:

    • Temperature: if <0F, snow denser, ~15F, light and fluffy with large ice crystals

    • Duration of descent

    • Temperature on ground determines wetness of snow

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How is Snow Made Artificially?

  • Cold water & compressed air within a subfreezing environment

    • 1. Atomization: Reduces particle size to increase surface area to volume ratio through nozzles

    • Heat transfer decreases temp of water to ambient air temp

    • Add compressed air at high velocity outside of air nozzles

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How is Snow Made Artificially?

  • 2. Introduce seed particle made of bacterial protein to aid in crystallization

    • Protein used to catalyze the conversion of water to ice

    • Use of catalyst increases freezing temp from 15F-20F to 28F

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Technology vs. Nature

  • Efficiency:

    • Quiet: 60db can’t be heard past 100m

    • Low energy consumption & many hours of operation at 15kW

    • Usually use water pressure between 80-100psi

  • No present technology can match nature:

    • Liquid Water Content:

      • 40-50% artificial

      • 1-10% natural

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Snowmaking Monitoring System at Mt. Pluto, Lake Tahoe

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Energy Costs

  • Temperature:

    • Energy cost doubles for making snow in 10F up to 25F

Typical Material Cost Breakdown of a Snowmaking System

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Energy Costs

  • Water Pressure:

    • Usually use 80-100 psi, cost

    • increases 40% to use 150 psi

Snowmaking Technology Energy Use Consumption

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Goals of Snowmaking

  • Long distance reach

  • Minimal chance of freezup

  • Uniform crystal size

  • Energy efficient

  • Mobile (small, light)

  • Ranges between blizzard intensity (4in/hr) to mild flurry (1/4in/hr)

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How is Snow Made?

  • Water withdrawn from river or lake

  • Pumped up to holding reservoir

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Whiskey’s For Drinkin’, Water’s For Fightin’

  • Legal right to divert water

    • Senior rights

    • Vail has spent >$1,000,000 acquiring senior water rights

  • Legal rights for water left in rivers aren’t recognized in many states

  • Highest priority to people that hold oldest rights

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How Has Snowmaking Effected the Colorado Ski Industry?

  • Artificial snow in:

    • Colorado: 16%

    • East Coast: 90%

  • 109 gal of water used/skier visit

  • To cover an area 500m x 60m 20cm deep, need 600m3 of snow or 2500m3 of water

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The Battle for Water:Colorado Wild vs. United States Forest Service

  • Arapahoe Basin: Colorado’s oldest, smallest, and highest ski area

  • Located near Loveland Pass on the North Fork of the Snake River, a tributary of the Colorado River

  • Court battle: make snow in response to several consecutive dry years and pressure to match early opening dates of competitors

  • Only major resort as of 1998 not to make snow

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Biological Effects of Diverting Water

Little Snake River at Steamboat Springs

  • Decreased Water Quality

  • Increased runoff

  • Fish kills

  • Decreased wildlife habitat

  • Affected recreational activities

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The Water Cycle

  • Effects of diverting water:

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Water Quality

Snake River at Keystone, CO

  • The North Fork dilutes high concentrations of toxic metals downstream in the Snake River from to acid mine drainage

  • Cu, Ni, Ur, Pb, Zn

Near Baxter Springs, Kansas

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Boulder Brook, CO

  • Increased spring runoff

    • Rate

    • Volume

    • duration

  • 70-80% returned to system as runoff

  • Earlier peak discharge

    • Erosion

    • Need for larger storage reservoirs

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Lowflow & Fish Kills

  • Water diverted in the winter, when streams are at their lowest flow

  • Ecosystem extremely sensitive at this time

    • Greenback & Cutthroat Trout

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A-Basin’s Struggle to Make Snow

  • A-Basin served as scapegoat to environmental organizations fighting for instream flows

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The Court Decision

  • Colorado Wild lost lawsuit on the basis:

    • Clean Water Act doesn’t regulate water quality impacts from diversions, only discharges

    • Colorado law: water quality standards only apply to discharges of pollutants

  • Arapahoe Basin began making snow November 21, 2002

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The Court Decision: Movement Towards Instream Flow

A-basin spokesman Alan Henceroth:

“No water diverter in Colorado has ever been required to meet such strict standards”

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The Court Decision

  • Arapahoe Basin agreed to:

    • Contribution of $20,000 for stream restoration of Snake River

    • Implement an aquatic biological monitoring plan

    • Bypass wintertime flows in greater quantities than required by the Colorado Water Conservation Board

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How Much Does Snowmaking Effect the Water Cycle?

Total Recreation Use: 3,398 AF (0.1%)

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Outlook For 2003-2004

  • Colorado Basin predictions call for 80%-89% of average volume runoff

  • Low winter stream flows have caused difficulty in administering reservoir releases for snowmaking

  • Increased protection of in-stream flows by monitoring snowmaking diversions

  • Four ski areas have proposed terrain expansions this winter

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Work Cited

  • “Loveland Ski Areas’ Augmentation Plan,” Leonard Rice Consulting Water Engineers, Inc.

  • “Colorado’s Historic Drought Won’t Affect Snowmaking at most ski areas this season,” The Denver Post. 9/27/02. Pg. C-01

  • “Ski Resort, Forest Service Argue for Use of Snowmaking Water From Snake River,” U.S. Water News Online. Nov, 2000.

  • “Greens Call Snowmaking a Snow Job,” High Country News. 3/27/00.

  • Colorado River Basin Water Use, Growth, & Demand Projections. Colorado Water Conservation Board, 2002.

  • Calibration of Snowmaking Equipment for Efficient Use on Virginia’s Smart Road. Shea, Edward J. 1999.

  • Colorado Water Supply Conditions Update. 2003.


  • Schroeder, William. “Snake River Water Quality Assessment.” EPA.

  • “Snowmaking Starts,” Arapahoe Basin Press Release. 11/21/02.

  • “Water Diversions For Snowmaking…” Water Law Newsletter. 2001.

  • “A Dry Legacy,” Trout Unlimited, 2002.

  • “Western Water Campaign,” Trout Unlimited. 2001.