Learn about the science of snow-making at Snowshoe Mountain

Winter Ready 2021

SNOWSHOE, W.Va. (WFXR) — Without snow making, there more than likely not be much of a ski season in the Alleghany Highlands.

Let’s face it, groomed snow with a 36-foot or so base and fresh powder introduced to the slopes every night is just not part of the meteorological winter in Pocahontas County. As a result, the folks at Snowshoe Mountain make their own.

To be clear, this is not fake, imitation, artificial, or any other kind of snow since it is just frozen ice crystals falling on the ground.

The difference is that these flakes are generated from hundreds of snow cannons strategically placed throughout the mountain.

Yes, you still need cold air and dry conditions to generate the correct type of powder for skiing, but at 4,848 feet above sea level, the cold air is not hard to come by.

The process starts on Nov. 1, conditions permitting, and continues through the season.

There are hundreds of employees monitoring the massive cannons, as well as a huge compressor barn on-site that generates the compressed air, forces it through miles of pipes, and combines it with the water from the lake at the base of the mountain to make the snow for the snow cannons. However, the process of pushing water through fans in sub-freezing temperatures is not as simple as it sounds.

Over the past five years Snowshoe has spent more than $5 million on new cannons and technology to make the process as energy efficient and possible.

Fun fact: if all the Cannons are ignited in perfect conditions for 12 hours, that would completely cover a football field in 27 feet of snow. If you expand that thought, within six days, the football field would have a pile of snow 324 feet high, which is four feet taller than the Wells Fargo Tower in Roanoke.

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