Snowmaking Gets Bigger, More Efficient

07/24/14 | By | 47 More

SNOWMAKING INFRASTRUCTURE - Three new steel pipes were laid into a trench last week. The new pipes will vastly improve Tellruide's ability to move water and make snow where its needed. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

SNOWMAKING INFRASTRUCTURE – Three new steel pipes were laid into a trench last week. The new pipes will vastly improve Telluride’s ability to move water and make snow where it’s needed. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

TELLURIDE – After laying 16,000 ft. of steel pipe last summer and an additional 22,000 ft. of pipe being installed this summer, the Telluride Ski Resort’s once antiquated snowmaking capabilities are becoming vastly more efficient and will now bring better snow conditions to more places on the mountain in a shorter period of time.

Simply put, the new system will enable snowmaking crews to use the same amount of water as in the past, but in a more powerful way, meaning more runs will be open earlier in the season. And all this will be accomplished, using less energy.

The infrastructure upgrade is big and expensive (close to $3 million over the last two years), but Telluride Ski and Golf Co. officials say it will properly lay the groundwork for future snowmaking expansions on the Town of Telluride side of the resort.

“Once this is built and built right, we are setting ourselves up for success,” Jeff Proteau, Telski Vice President of mountain operations and planning, said last week.

Telski’s Manager of Snowmaking Brandon Green, the designer of the ski area’s multi-year infrastructure upgrade project, works closely with the renowned snowmaking engineer firm, Torrent Engineering and Equipment. Last summer, crews replaced 16,000 ft. of steel pipe around the Lift 4 area. The old  antiquated pipe often froze, and caused major snowmaking delays while crews were called to fix the breakage. That old system also contained dead ends and one-way legs that held back snowmaking crews back. If there was a frozen pipe or a burst pipe, the entire system had to be shut down until it was fixed.

DIRECTOR OF SNOWMAKING Brandon Green stood inside Telluride Ski Resort's main pump house and described the efficiencies the new system will have. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

MANAGER OF SNOWMAKING – Brandon Green stood inside Telluride Ski Resort’s main pump house and described the efficiencies the new system will have. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

The new pipe system laid last summer was designed with a loop and various shut-off valves, so if a pipe does freeze, the entire system won’t have to be shut down.

The new infrastructure also has the ability to bring water at a higher pressure, up to 800 p.s.i, which is needed for  60 new low energy Snow Logic snowmaking guns. These new guns, along with the higher pressure, make it possible to begin snowmaking at a higher temperature (anywhere below 26 degrees Fahrenheit) than the previous system.

READY FOR WINTER - Along the new line, between the top of Lift 4 and the bottom of Lift 5, there will be 38 new hydrants where new Snow Logic guns will be located. Pictured is one of the new hydrants thats now ready for a new snowmaking gun. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

READY FOR WINTER – Along the new line, between the top of Lift 4 and the bottom of Lift 5, there will be 38 new hydrants where new Snow Logic guns will be located. Pictured is one of the new hydrants thats now ready for a new snowmaking gun. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

The improvements made to the snowmaking system had a big impact on the ski area’s snowmaking ability last year, at the same time dramatically reducing its energy consumption.

“We basically finished making snow on Dec. 23,” Green said, adding that many longtime snowmaking employees in Telluride hadn’t had Christmas off in years. “This year they had Christmas off. It was a huge change.”

Green also said the improvements saved the ski area energy costs by about 30 percent.

“It’s all about reducing our carbon footprint and snowmaking is the place to do it,” Proteau said. “There are so many things you can do to improve snowmaking and, so far, we are really proud of what we’ve done.”

Telski didn’t stop there. This summer, even more improvements are taking place. Currently, there are seven track-hoes, three dozers and approximately 30 workers excavating, welding and installing 22,000 ft. of steel pipe from the top of Lift 4, down Boomerang, to the bottom of Lift 5. It is in this trench that three new steel pipes are being installed. One will carry pressured water for snowmaking. One will carry high-pressure air to operate about 38 new Snow Logic snowmaking guns this winter. A third pipe will be used to fill either one of Telski’s two water reservoirs near the top of Lift 4.

WATER WORKS - Approximately 22,000 feet of new steel pipe will be installed this summer. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

WATER WORKS – Approximately 22,000 ft. of new steel pipe will be installed this summer. (Photo by Gus Jarvis)

The snowmaking system it replaces used one pipe for both snowmaking and reservoir-filling needs, which slowed down snowmaking efforts.

The new line will carry 38 new Snow Logic guns along the route, a major boost from the previous 12 old guns that were operated along this line. With the energy efficient Snow Logic Guns in place and the ability to move water where it’s needed while snowmaking is in progress, the new system will, Green says, allow his crew to be more selective about when and where snow is made.

“We’ll have 38 new snowmaking locations instead of 12,” Green says. “This is really going to speed up our process.”

The new pump line is dedicated to keeping reservoirs full and, upon completion of future upgrades at the the base of the gondola, will enable crews to fill those reservoirs with San Miguel River water. Upgrades also include a new gravity feed line down to the Meadows, Double Cabins and the Peaks where snowmaking capabilities will be increased.

Each winter season, Telski uses between 90 million and 110 million gallons of water for snowmaking purposes; the new snowmaking infrastructure will consume no more water.

“We won’t need more water, but we will have the ability to move more water more efficiently,” Proteau explains. “In the past, we had to make snow whenever we could. Now Brandon can be more selective about where the water needs to be. As soon as the temperatures get right, he can light the place up with snow.”

Proteau says it has been and will always be the ski resort’s policy to open easy runs into the Mountain Village base area first, because skiers and riders of all abilities can use them. But as soon as they are open, they will move the snowmaking to the front side of the resort to give skiers and riders access to Telluride as well. All of this new snowmaking infrastructure will help ensure the front side gets access sooner than it has in the past. In addition, the new work between Lift 4 and 5 will enable crews to open connector runs more quickly, which means upper portions of the mountain can be opened more quickly.

And what about upgrading the front side’s snowmaking infrastructure? That leg of the big picture project is still in the works but both Green and Proteau said the current projects need to be completed first.

A LONG SECTION of steel pipe was laid into a trench last week. (Courtesy photo)

A LONG SECTION of steel pipe was laid into a trench last week. (Courtesy photo)

Both Proteau and Green gave a lot of credit to Telluride Ski Resort owner Chuck Horning for his willingness and vision to move the ski area forward with the needed infrastructure upgrades.

“It’s been great to have an owner like Chuck who listens to us on what needs to be done to improve the ski area,” Green says. “This is a fun project to conceptualize, see it through and then finally turn it on.”

This summer’s installation is expected to be completed by Aug. 20.

 

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

@Gus_Jarvis

 

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  1. FaceOnMars says:

    “It’s all about reducing our carbon footprint”

    ^ I’d be interested to know how a grand calculation of carbon usage (in both deployment of new system + ultimate usage) would pan out? Even if it is a wash or perhaps a gain, I would be extremely surprised to learn that such a move was ENTIRELY motivated soley (or even predominantly) by a yearning to reduce Telski’s carbon footprint.

    On the contrary, I believe this is purely a marketing manuever to insure early season access to the Telski’s “bread and butter” segment of the market. Moreover, the apparent neglect of the front/town side of the mountain is yet another slap (slight as it might be) in the face to locals … which seem to be routinely left behind (i.e. lift 8 closures).

    Moreover, lets be honest about Milk Run … it’s largely been handed over to special interests at the expense of the greater good of the public at large. Once one of the premiere spring time bump runs on the mountain, it now sits closed/dormant until late January at the latest while Telski makes enough snow on the TMV side to suit it’s marketing objectives, then is roped off from the public on a good number of days while competition or practice is being held. Grooming of the run is probably the biggest “tragedy” … given the unique profile & exposure of the run. There really aren’t any equivalents on the mountain in terms of pitch and exposure as an ungroomed bump run which isn’t super steep nor too moderate, yet there are certainly alternatives for racing venues.

    If Telski insists upon carving up particular runs for special use, at the least why not deduct the cost of general lift access from those who are unable to utilize such “ammenities” (i.e. includes the terrain parks too) and charge additional access fees to those who do? … instead of forcing the public at large to subsidize special interests.

    LOL @ “all about reducing carbon footprint”

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