Man Made Snow

Man Made Snow

To make snow, you need water and the source begins in this lower snow making pond. This is one of two holding ponds at the Berkshire East ski area. A second pond at the top of the mountain holds additional water. The power to pump this water and eventually transform it into snow is provided by the wind. Back in 2010, the folks at Berkshire East installed a nine hundred kilowatt wind Turbine that turns the wind into electricity which powers the motors to make the snow. From the lower snowmaking pond the water moves to the main pump pulse control room.

This is serious and potentially dangerous equipment. The mechanisms and complexity is constantly monitored by a team of employees and engineers. Under enormous pressure of more than 500 pounds per square inch, the water will soon be pumped up the mountain through a network of conduits. Shile this is a story about how snow is made it’s more about a young man who embraces responsibility and carries on his family’s legacy.

It’s late Friday afternoon, a week before the start of the Christmas holidays and area manager, Jonathan Schaeffer is preparing equipment for its snowmaking crew.

John learned many skills from his father Roy, a legendary manager and snow maker. For decades this family has been in a constant struggle mother nature and while they continue to win the war, not every battle has resulted in victory.

With a week of mild temperatures behind John is now under the time clock to get three major trails open for the following day. One by one John connects the water hoses that will be used for the snow guns on the novice trail. After connecting dozens of water hoses, the cold front has now moved in
temperatures well below freezing. John calls home to his wife and daughter to assure them that everything is OK.

We’re doing all the hoses now so it’s easier on the guys at night so just working through into the night crew and trying to help them out as much as possible.

This is one of dozens of snow guns on the competition trail that John will be operating this evening. Each snow gun has hundreds of these small nozzles that when under the extreme pressure of water and air they create a fine mist that atomizers the water and turns it into snow crystals when forced into the freezing air.

As John nears the area for the crew that is responsible for the novice trail, he spots a surge of water and here’s the news that a coupling has ruptured.

John and his crew were able to repair the coupling, the delay has cost the crew valuable hours.

After John cleared the ice and produced the gasket, the gun begins producing snow. This is the first of dozens of snow guns John will be starting. After an hour, John has fired up all of the snow guns on the competition trail and returns to the groomer. Now that all the snow guns are operating, John checks in at the base lodge for a quick bite to eat and then soon goes back to work well into the night. By 3:30 a.m. all of the machines are working perfectly and the area is being buried under a man-made snow storm

With only a few hours of sleep, John returns to the area to help the crew shut down the snow guns. By 7am, the water and the base pond has been lowered and will be recharged throughout the day by the inflowing streams from the mountain.

Each groomer as thousands of teeth on the tillers that will pulverized the snow into a fine corduroy surface. By 8 a.m. the crew has finished grooming the three major trails in anticipation for today’s guests. As usual John is one of the first to get on the area’s new Sky climb quad chairlift.

Berkshire East is where John grew up and with a strong background in ski racing, he approaches each day with the same enthusiasm as he has for every day in his life. On this day, John greets his guests and lift operators. Skis with his friends and employees and checks out the service conditions on every trail. By noon, John had made three commercials to be shown that evening.

Then there’s the hour of skiing with his two-year-old daughter Reese on the magic carpet hill.

John and his crew of dedicated employees made snow for thousands of loyal customers, who are really the extended family at Berkshire East. They made snow, the kids with aspirations. They made snow for the many families that have grown up together at Berkshire East. As the Sun set and the temperature dropped, John and his crew went back out to make more snow.

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