Snowfactory gives Mount Van Hoevenberg skiers a boost
LAKE PLACID — At the tail end of October, it was still 81 degrees. Nevertheless, the Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross Country and Biathlon Center hosted a training camp for the U.S. Paralympic nordic program, and athletes were able to ski in preparation for the upcoming games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Last December, Mount Van Hoevenberg acquired the Snowfactory, a machine capable of efficiently producing large amounts of snow on even the warmest of days. This is the first full season Mount Van Hoevenberg will use the Snowfactory. The center opened Friday.
“This isn’t the earliest season we’ve had,” said Kris Cheney-Seymour, who manages the nordic skiing center. “We’ll expect to be open through March and into the first week on April.”
The center was open 135 days last season. Without it, Cheney-Seymour said they would’ve been open just 85 days.
“This year we’re shooting for 150 days,” he said. “The general hope is the Snowfactory allows us as a venue to stay open continuously. Even in unpredictable weather, we decide when we open.”
Cheney-Seymour said there are a few dozen Snowfactories throughout the world, but the one at Mount Van Hoevenberg is the only one operational in North America.
The Snowfactory doesn’t look like much from the outside — basically just a shipping container with a wide hose attached — but inside it’s capable of producing a lot of much-needed snow.
The Snowfactory has three industrial-sized ice makers inside that freeze water to 5 degrees below zero. The ice is chopped up by large rotating cutter and blown out through a snow cannon. After leasing the Snowfactory for a season from Boreal Mountain Resort in Soda Springs, California, the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs Lake Placid’s winter sports facilties, has entered a lease-to-buy agreement to purchase the Snowfactory for $500,000.
Just because it snows in Lake Placid one day doesn’t mean that is the right snow for skiing.
“Natural snow is fragile,” Cheney-Seymour said. “When natural snow is exposed to things like sun, heat and wind, it tends to melt a lot faster than manmade snow.”
Manmade snow is made of tiny ice crystals and generally is a third more durable than natural snow, Cheney-Seymour said. The Snowfactory, he added, operates incredibly cold and dry, making snow two-thirds more durable than natural snow.
The Snowfactory can make two tons of snow in an hour. That means it converts 11 gallons of water into snow per minute.
Cheney-Seymour said the Snowfactory is important to the region as well as Mount Van Hoevenberg.
“It allows us to protect the snow we do have and make the snow we don’t,” he said.