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Craftsbury Makes Snow
In the interest of providing our community, members and guests with more reliable skiing at home in northern VT, Craftsbury is developing the capacity to make snow to supplement what nature provides.
Why do we want to have the capability to make snow?
Craftsbury already has a good reputation for having snow cover throughout the season. However, it is not reliable - especially early and late in the year. Only occasionally do we have snow at Thanksgiving. Frequently we have snow for Christmas; but some years we don't. Sometimes the snow lasts well into March, but other years it does not. The goal of our snow-making project is to augment the natural snow fall enough to create a more reliable and consistent ski season.
How will this benefit the greater Craftsbury community?
The benefits to area skiers are clear, and we hope the reliability of snow will draw even more local people to become skiers.
The project also promises to benefit the community in broader, but slightly less obvious ways:
- Early snow will attract business to area stores, restaurants, and lodging at a time of year when there historically hasn't been much tourist traffic. The seasonal rental housing market should likewise strengthen.
- Jobs in the area, including those at the Outdoor Center, will become that much less seasonal, providing more stable income over the course of the year.
How does snow-making fit the mission of the Outdoor Center?
Our mission has three prongs: lifelong sports, sustainability and land stewardship. Considering each of these:
- Lifelong sports: The ability to augment our natural snow will make nordic
skiing available on a more reliable basis throughout the winter, thereby
providing more opportunities for regular, outdoor, lifelong fitness to our
- Sustainability: Early snow at Craftsbury will allow New England's serious skiers
to get on snow at the very beginning of the season, without the carbon cost of
flying out west or driving up to Quebec, which is what most do now. We will do
our best to produce snow as energy efficiently as we can. For example, we expect
to be able to recover waste heat from the generator and use it to help heat our
The reality is that we have always done a massive amount of snow farming - our term for moving snow from the sides of trails; plowing snow from parking lots and fields; trucking it out on to the trails; etc. Our new snow making capability will make the snow farming effort more efficient and more effective, creating a more reliable and consistent ski season.
- Stewardship of land, lake & trails: The lake is an important natural resource
to all of us, so we did careful research to make sure that our proposed
withdrawal of water would not have a negative effect on the lake. (See some of
the details we found in our studies below). And of course the state needed to
approve this, too, and they did. As part of receiving the water withdrawal
permit, we will be taking on responsibility for monitoring lake levels through
the year. Along with this new capacity for making snow, we will continue to
maintain and improve our trails so that a minimal amount of snow is needed to
make them skiable. This makes the trails nicer for summer use, too.
How much water will be needed?
We asked and were given permission to withdraw 2 million gallons per winter, which represents less than 1/2" of lake level if taken all at once. How much is 2 million gallons? To put it in perspective, in our program of monitoring the lake level, we have learned that the lake volume goes up as much as 6-8 million gallons after a heavy rain and regularly varies up & down by a million gallons daily. In years past, when the Center used lake water for its tap water supply, the annual usage likely surpassed 2 million gal/year.
What else did you learn through monitoring the lake?
The process of monitoring the lake and studying all the inflows and outflows was fascinating and resulted in an interesting discovery. In all the years of sculling on the lake, we had not realized that there is also a northern outlet. We were well aware of the dam at the south end that releases water toward Little Hosmer. But there is also a northern exit that releases three times as much water as the southern one, in the direction of Lord's Creek (which parallels Creek Rd heading north.) The lake is truly at the top of its watershed, emptying in both directions.
Despite having two exits, the lake is constantly supplied by springs and small streams such that it produces about 1.5-2 million gallons per day of outflow, even without rain. So the 2 million gallons the Center system may use over the course of a winter are almost literally the proverbial "drop in the bucket".
What ramifications will the additional snowpack have on springtime runoff?
The impact of additional snow will be no different than that of a good natural snow year. Our intention is to supplement natural snowfall with man-made - not create extra.
When will you make snow?
We anticipate needing to make snow in November in order to have some skiing at Thanksgiving, sometimes in December to be sure there is snow for Christmas, and as needed during thaws that threaten to stop skiing in January, February & March.
Where will you make the snow?
We will produce the snow right on our soccer fields using three of the quieter fan-style snow guns and then move the snow around as needed. We hope to ensure snow cover on several kilometers of our core trails, specifically Lemon's Haunt, and our new homologated sprint course. Our next priority is the longer 3.75k homologated course.
In some cases, snowmaking involves additives, is it the Center's plan to use these sorts of chemicals?
We won't be using any of these nucleators in our process.
While we know we haven't answered every question (in part because we're still learning much about the new system's operation ourselves) we hope that we've given you an understanding of the project and why we took it on. We feel that snow-making will be a very positive addition to the Center, local community and broader ski community as well in the coming years. Should you have any further questions, please email us at email@example.com.