If you haven’t heard already, we’ve got major plans for the upcoming winter. The big news: we’re increasing our total snowmaking capacity by 43 percent.
While two new snowmaking pumps and 29 additional low-energy, high efficiency tower guns will account for the lion’s share of that increase, we’re also installing 100 new HKD KLIK semi-automated snowmaking hydrants that will be a huge boost to snowmaker productivity.
Last week we asked Ken Mack, Loon’s snowmaking manager, how these upgrades will affect snowmaking at the mountain. He told us to expect big things.
Loon Mountain: Ken, two new snowmaking pumps doesn’t seem like a big deal. Could they really make a difference?
Ken Mack: It’s not seen, but it’s no different than installing two more detachable quads. Getting that many more people up the mountain, we’re going to get that many more gallons per minute up the mountain. We’re going to be able to open terrain faster in the early season. Plus, we’ll be able to keep opening terrain. Say we get a freeze-thaw and we need to do some resurfacing. In the past we had to stop opening terrain to resurface. Now we’ll be able to do both – resurface and keep opening terrain, which is a big deal.
Loon Mountain: Will the increased snowmaking capacity make snowmaking go quicker?
Ken Mack: Is it going to shorten the snowmaking season? I think the only thing it’s going to shorten is the amount of time it’s going to take us to get open. That’s what it’s going to shorten, which is what really matters. If we can get 100% open before other areas, that’s good.
Loon Mountain: You’ve already started construction work on the shelters that will house the 100 new HKD KLIK semi-automated hydrants. What role will the hydrants (where the snowmaking hoses connect to the air and water pipes) play?
Ken Mack: With this hydrant setup, there will be a shelter with a cover on it, and all that’s going to be coming out of that shelter is a set of hydraulic hoses going right to the base of the gun, and a handle. All you literally have to do is go to the handle and just put it on whatever the snowmaking foreman tells you.
Loon Mountain: So will the new hydrants make a snowmaker’s job easier?
Ken Mack: For a snowmaker to start up a traditional tower gun, it could take that snowmaker 5 minutes per hydrant, per tower gun. This will cut that down by 75 percent – and it could be as fast as 30 seconds. All he’s got to do is make sure the line’s charged and turn a lever. That’s all he’s got to do.
Loon Mountain: What about shutting guns down?
Ken Mack: Shutting down a traditional setup, I’ve got to shut the air and water off, disconnect both hoses, then take the water hose, plug it into the air, and blow the water out so the hose doesn’t freeze. Then I’d have to drape it all to get ready for the next step. So you take that out of the equation, too. We’re saving 75 percent on the shutdown as well, because everything drains into that shelter. Everything gravity drains. It’s a huge, huge time saver.
Loon Mountain: These hydrants are being installed on Loon’s main early-season snowmaking route – Exodus to Upper Bear Claw to Grand Junction to Lower Bear Claw. What about the rest of the mountain?
Ken Mack: It’s not for every location on the mountain, but for the main runs we resurface a lot, it’s a big deal. Are we going to put them on Ripsaw? No, probably not.