Ever wondered how Massachusetts ski areas get their snow when nature hasn’t provided much? The answer is snowmaking machines. Thanks to these machines many ski resorts are able to extend their seasons, movie makers are able to create more realistic scenes and crops can be more protected.
In 1950, Art Hunt, Dave Richey, and Wayne Pierce invented a snow cannon capable of creating snow. At the time all three worked in the ski manufacturing business and had been hard hit in 1949 when they experienced a very dry winter. They went on to place a patent on the machine in 1952.
The machine worked by blowing droplets of moisture into the freezing air, then turning the droplets into snow. The three inventors use a paint spray compressor, a nozzle and some garden hose to create their snowmaking machine. In 1956 they sold their company and patent rights to the Emhart Corporation.
Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel of New York State was the first ski resort to use a snowmaking machine for artificial snow. Snowmaking then became more popular and was used commercially by many ski resorts starting in the early 1970s. Overtime, many winter resorts have counted on snowmaking for much of their snow.
Early snowmaking machines were noisy and demanded a lot of energy to function. The art of snowmaking has changed overtime, as it has needed to become more efficient to meet the needs of ski resorts. Early models of the snowmaking machine required an operator to make snow with the equipment.
Snowmaking machines are now controlled by computers, getting rid of a trained operator and allowing the machine to be controlled more precisely. However, the process is still not 100 percent automatic, as human control is still needed along with computers.
There are several different types of snowmaking machines now, such as:
- Internal Mixing Guns
- With these guns, air and water are combined together and forcefully pushed out of the machine to make snow. The type of snow can be changed, depending on the amount of water used.
- External Mixing Guns
- Separate nozzles for water and for air are used with external guns. The air stream breaks up the water particles into smaller pieces. They use less air, but require a longer hanging time.
- Fan Guns
- With fan guns, compressed water and air are shot through nozzles in the gun to create different sizes and designs of snowflakes.
- Snow Lances
- These machines have more sensitivity to wind and do not make quite as good of snow as other types of machines, but are more energy-efficient and quieter. They use tubes made from aluminum and an air nucleator.
The art of snowmaking has changed our winter recreation and sports. It has also enriched our economy over the past several decades. Next time you are enjoying one of the many ski areas in Massachusetts, you might owe a word of thanks to Art Hunt, Dave Richey, and Wayne Pierce for their 1950 snowmaking invention that allows skiers a much longer and enjoyable season on the slopes.