Snowmaking FAQ

Who decides when it’s time to make snow?

The NSAA Operations staff will decide when it’s time to make snow and will base their decision on two factors. First, they must determine that they will be able to use our resources responsibly; water, electricity, labor and your money.  Second, the conditions must be favorable and sustainable.   “Favorable conditions” aren’t just about the temperatures being cold enough.  Other aspects such as humidity and wind must also be considered.   We’ll be setting our parameters according to this chart below showing the variable snow making conditions:

snowmaking

How is the snowmaking loop created?

Once we start making snow, the first step is to create a foundation of snow in the Bunker area and on the two trails that lead to the snowmaking loop.  This insures that the Pisten Bullys are kept free of dirt.  Then, depending on the weather (particularly the wind) we will seek to construct a “skiable loop” and then expand to bigger loops through the stadiums and Nordic Hill.  Finally, we’ll head over and make a loop up to the Chalet.  The groomers will make, mound, push and spread snow as they go throughout the loop and follow up with grooming.

Would it be possible to fire up the snowmaking system in late October (temperature permitting, of course) to make an early season loop?

NSAA intends to start making snow as soon as it appears that the snowmaking efforts will last the season.  Snowmaking is expensive and it takes a lot of labor and a lot of power.  Once we are confident that our resources will be used responsibly and efficiently, we will begin.

Is the system seen as a tool to lay down a base of firm snow for the whole winter, or seen more as a backup in case nature doesn’t produce?

Our intention is to use the system to lay down a firm first layer.  Throughout the season, the stadium and snowmaking loop require frequent reconfiguring due to the needs of multiple events.  An artificial base, even when there is natural snow, will add the durability required to endure this constant manipulation.

When and how much snow did NSAA make last winter?

Last winter, NSAA made snow on 26 days compared to 28 days for the winter of 2014-15. Most of the snowmaking days occurred in December (16 days), with the remaining days spread out over November (5 days), January (3 days), and February (2 days). What is quite noticeable is that we used 3.7 million gallons of water last winter as compared to 2.3 million gallons of water in 2014-15. The large increase in water use is attributed to two factors: 1) the Operations staff made a concerted effort to only make snow under the best weather conditions (low air temperatures and low relative humidity), and 2) the Operations staff constructed the entire blue snowmaking loop.

How much time is invested in making snow?

A lot! Manufacturing snow is not only costly, it’s very time consuming. Last winter the snow making equipment (fan guns and lances) ran collectively for 3,974.6 hours. Our paid staff worked 930 hours while our volunteers volunteered 449 hours. The value of the total paid labor and volunteer labor equaled $56,236. We sure appreciate our volunteers!

Who owns and operates the snowmaking system?

The snowmaking system is a public asset in a municipal park.  It is operated and maintained by NSAA and MOA Parks and Recreation through a co-operative use agreement.

What is the operating cost of the snowmaking system?

The operating cost for the 2015/2016 season was $125,518, which does not include the cost associated with the use of NSAA’s equipment. The cost of the power consumed was $53,889, paid labor including overtime added up to $46,497, the cost of repairs totaled $25,132 and 3.7 million gallons of water was used.

Who pays for the operation and maintenance of the system?

NSAA bears the burden of operating the snowmaking system and the MOA, Parks and Recreation Maintenance, bears the burden of operating the irrigation system and covers the cost of power.

Where does the funding for NSAA snowmaking come from?

Historically, NSAA membership, program and event fees have been kept at affordable levels, with hopes of being accessible to all parts of our community.  To be sustainable and to fully utilize the potential of snowmaking equipment, NSAA’s fee structure for events will begin to reflect the true costs that we are facing.  Additionally, special fundraisers will be held specifically for snowmaking.

Can I volunteer to help operate the snowmaking system?

Yes you can!  Last winter, 449 hours of volunteer labor was utilized to operate the snowmaking system.

Do I need special training and/or skills to voluneer?

There is a special place and level of responsibility for almost everyone interested in helping. Some volunteer positions will require a little training from our staff, such as learning to set up the Fan Guns.  Each one has its own on-board computer that must be set each time the Gun is relocated.   Other volunteer positions just require willingness and a good attitude.  The most laborious duties involve monitoring the equipment for icing, shoveling buried hoses and cables due to a change in the wind and checking for leaks and engine failures.
Some basic requirements to volunteer are:

-Have a set of warm clothes
-Know how to operate a snow machine (NSAA will train if necessary)
-Be able to help at odd hours (weekends, evenings, possibly overnight).  We have to deal with Mother Nature…when it gets cold; we make snow no matter what time it is.
-Be able to deal with boredom for long periods of time, interjected with moments of frantic chaos and problem solving.

Where did the snowmaking system come from?

This system was designed and manufactured by TechnoAlpin, located in Bolzano, Italy.

Does the snowmaking system need to be run manually or can it be run automatically?

The snowmaking system is run by computer software and can be programmed to turn on and off automatically according to the temperature or the time of day.  We can also program the system to run either one or many fan guns or lances.  However, we always have a few people present when we’re making snow to take care of problems when they arise.  For example, if the water filter in one of the fan guns is plugged, that gun will automatically shut down.  Someone on site then needs to service the fan gun to get it back into operation.  Also, wind speed and direction constantly change at Kincaid and someone has to be on site to make adjustments to the fan guns and/or lances.  Having several people on site who are constantly making rounds to check the equipment during snowmaking ensures that the quality of snow produced is appropriate for the temperatures and trail base development.

Where does the water for snowmaking come from?

Two wells were drilled at Kincaid Park specifically for the snowmaking project.  The wells currently produce 150 gallons of water per minute, which is less than 1/3 of its designed capacity.   In order to operate the snowmaking system fully and efficiently, we need 400 gallons per minute.

Is it possible to dig and line a snowmaking pond somewhere at Kincaid?

It probably is and a pond is being explored as one option.  Keep in mind that adding more infrastructures will create more responsibility and ultimately will require more money to maintain.

What are the plans for future expansion and capacity improvements?

At this point, our goal is to complete and maintain the current system while developing consistent and sustainable funding to operate it.  Next, we will endeavor to improve the water supply and pending those results, only then would we implement the “Master Plan” consisting of additional loops.

Have other questions that should be posted? Want to volunteer for snowmaking? Send them to opsupport@anchoragenordicski.com