Wintergreen Resort: Premier Blue Ridge Mountain Ski, Golf, Tennis, Spa and Family Vacation Resort in Virginia

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Wintergreen SNOWPOWER

Wintergreen Resort is home to one of the world’s most sophisticated snowmaking systems. First installed during the 2002-2003 winter season and continuously upgraded, this state-of-the-art York® computerized snowmaking system gives Wintergreen the SnowPower to consistently offer the Mid-Atlantic’s best skiing and snowboarding surfaces. Wintergreen is the only ski area on the East Coast to have 100 percent of its terrain covered by automated snowmaking.

This complex system involves approximately 40,000 linear feet of pipeline, more than 400 snowguns and 45 weather stations. The result is gold-standard snowsports surfaces, with a uniformity of depth and consistency of snow quality from the top of the slopes to the bottom.

Fun Facts:

  • Theoretically with optimal conditions, Wintergreen Resort’s snowmaking system could cover a football field with 37 feet of snow in just 24 hours.
  • Wintergreen’s York® computerized snowmaking system makes twice as much snow twice as fast as the resort’s previous system.

How is snow made?

Wintergreen Resort makes snow from the same two ingredients as Mother Nature – air and water. The difference is that Wintergreen has a 100 percent computerized system that controls the ratio of air to water, the timing, and the placement of the snow.

This state-of-the-art system includes a network of more than 400 powerful snowguns, underground hydrants and weather sensors that control the precise mixture of air and water required for the best quality snow. The sensors, which are located on the edge of the slopes, continuously monitor humidity and temperature while sending signals to computer-controlled hydrants that are buried under each snowgun.

How cold does it have to be to make snow?

Wintergreen’s computerized York snowmaking system calculates the “wet bulb” temperature, which is a mathematical function of the dry bulb (ambient) temperature and the level of humidity. Due to the complicated relationship between temperature and humidity, it’s actually possible to make snow at temperatures above freezing. Likewise, on a humid day, it may not be possible to make snow even though the thermometer indicates that it’s below freezing.

What are the components of Wintergreen’s York snowmaking system?

Wintergreen’s York snowmaking system includes powerful snowguns and weather sensors with computer chips. There is also a network of air, water and computer cables buried underground. Output is controlled by a central computer located in the resort’s compressor control building.

The weather sensors are located along the edge of the slopes and look like white bird houses. The weather sensors’ job is to continuously monitor the amount of moisture in the air. As the moisture level rises and falls throughout the day, messages are sent to the hydrant under each snowgun and adjustments are instantly made in the balance of water to air. When there is more moisture in the air, there is less water in the mix. These adjustments continue non-stop while snow is being made.

What’s so special about “automated” snowmaking?

Manufactured snow is made from water and compressed air. Traditional or manual snowmaking systems require thousands of man hours every winter to adjust snowguns according to the appropriate time, place, temperature and wind condition. Even with all this effort, it’s nearly impossible to manually make all the necessary adjustments required to create the optimal snow quality desired by skiers and snowboarders.

York’s fully automated snowmaking system can create a perfect snowstorm with the click of a button. From one computer, a snowmaker can control all the snowmaking hydrants on the system. Consequently, manufactured snow is often judged superior to Mother Nature’s version due to its consistency and structure.

What are the benefits of Wintergreen’s snowmaking system?

Although skiers, snowboarders and snowtubers barely notice snowmaking in progress (it’s often happening at night while they sleep), they do appreciate the quality and abundance of snow produced at Wintergreen Resort. The snowmaking system has extended Wintergreen’s snowsports season, and the resort is able to recover more quickly from rain or unseasonably warm periods.

Other Considerations

While we make snow at every possible opportunity, many times it is only for one to two hours that the temperatures are cold enough to make quality snow. Also we don’t start to make snow for the season until there is a two week window of cold weather. A day here and there of cold temperatures is not sufficient to start to lay the base down.

2012-2013 Snowmaking Improvements

In 2012 the ski area had the largest snowmaking expansion since automating the slopes during the 2001-2003 seasons. Since 2001-2003, automation provided efficiencies, awesome snow quality and increased production. Last year's project was all about a massive increase in production with the same incredible snow quality. The improvements allowed us to make more snow across all temperatures and a lot more snow overnight!

Key Improvements:

  • More snow production across all temperatures means opening trails sooner, providing better snow coverage and keeping slopes open longer
  • More snow on The Highlands. Previous pipeline constraints limited our snowmaking production on Highlands to approximately 1,500 GPM (gallons per minute). The new pipeline improvements doubled our production allowing 3,000 GPM of water to flow through this section of the mountain
  • Ability to run more guns on more slopes. Overall production increases allowed us to start making snow on additional trails giving customers more terrain sooner resulting in better variety and better value
  • Increased production in our Terrain Park allowed us to open this area earlier
  • Increased production in The Plunge allowed us to open quicker with more lanes
  • Increased snow production overnight means when the forecast and base depths permit, we plan to make less snow while open and catch up overnight
  • Ability to recover more quickly. Virginia can provide interesting weather... increased production allows for faster recovery

The scope of the project included:

  • 5 million gallons of on the mountain water storage allowing for increased production
  • 3000+ GPM of water cooling, resulting in increased production
  • Massive 16 inch pipeline from the snowmaking plant to key points within the ski area, resulting in much higher water volume and increased water pressure
  • Additional 4000 GPM of high pressure fully automated water pumping (previous max 4000 GPM) resulting in a total max production output of 8,000 GPM  
  • Additional 3000 GPM of water cooling. Cold water increases snow production
  • Additional TechnoAlpin fan snow guns
  • Additional MyNeige tower snow guns

2013-2014 Snowmaking Improvements

Pipe replacement and increased capacity on Eagles Swoop

The upper section of Eagles is a critical spot for Wintergreen and with limited capacity, we are forced to run these guns a ton. Increased capacity on the upper section along with new gun locations on skiers left will provide better coverage in less time.

The biggest and baddest snowmaking fan gun

Techno Alpin - TF10. This gun is the biggest one you can buy, with huge snowmaking capacity and the ability to throw snow farther than ordinary guns. These guns like wide open spaces where huge snow production is okay. We have just the spot!