In Quebec, Canada, the manufacturers of the revolutionary SnöFlake snow machine know more than a little something about snow.
The SnöFlake system uses a relatively simple snowmaking process based on traditional refrigeration equipment, producing snow through advanced cooling technology and a specially designed flake ice evaporator for all-weather temperatures. Two vertical 30-ton refrigerated drums are fully enclosed inside a shipping container and a spray bar slowly rotates around each drum, spraying a thin layer of water that instantly freezes without the use of any chemical additives. In front of the spray bar, a roller breaks off the thin layer of ice into flakes, which are then blown out through SnöFlake’s innovative two-exit propulsion system at a distance of up to 260 feet (79.2 meters). This allows the unit to lay powder down on two different places simultaneously and reduces the need for additional snow grooming.
“The entire system is built inside the SnöFlake factory in Quebec, trucked to your location…,” said Jason Sawin, owner of CHS Snowmakers, the U.S. distributer for SnöFlake. “The system is plug-and-play so all you have to do is hook up power and water, flip the switch and away you go. With SnöFlake, you are guaranteed to have good coverage and very consistent fresh snow throughout the season.”
SnöFlake also gives customers the option to leave the entire system on the trailer so it can be used where needed, whether that is relocating across the resort or to a big air event across the state.
“You can transport the SnöFlake unit directly wherever you want, hook it up to a generator and water supply, and then be up and running with all the snow you need within a matter of days,” said Sawin. “Any other option out there to produce snow – like trucking it down from the mountains – becomes very labor intensive, expensive and unfeasible very quickly.”
Traditional snowmaking will typically require sub-zero temperatures to be the most successful. That’s not the case for SnöFlake. The ice-flake snow created by SnöFlake comes out of the system at very low temperatures – between 14 to 17°F (-10 to -8°C) regardless of the ambient conditions – so even during warm or unseasonable weather of up to 50°F (10°C), snow can be made.
This means that because the snow SnöFlake produces is so cold, the ground it is covering is likely to freeze faster and last longer when compared to other kinds of ice-flake or traditional snowmaking methods; it actually bonds and adheres to the ground as it freezes. This allows equipment like snowcats to hit the snow and begin grooming trails quicker, without having to worry about damaging the turf underneath.
“The fact that the flakes are so cold, uncompacted and use 100 percent of the water that goes into the system makes SnöFlake an attractive snowmaking solution,” said Sawin. “With traditional snowmaking, you’re always looking for that favorable weather and temperature to make snow. But with SnöFlake’s patent-pending distribution system, you can put snow down exactly where and when you need it. There is no evaporative loss whatsoever, and no drifting of the snow you make off into the trees where you aren’t able to use it.”
A SnöFlake system means versatility for operations. Since the 60-ton unit is really two separate 30-ton units, side-by-side, working in concert, there is the option to run just one of the single units. This feature comes in handy if a tubing hill needs touch-ups, or an operation’s electrical supplier charges more during higher demand periods, for example. Additionally, if one of the single units needs to go down for maintenance, snowmakers can be assured that they can continue to make snow with the other unit.
However, in spite of its many benefits, SnöFlake should be seen as the perfect cost-effective option for those high-density areas where traditional snowmaking is difficult, such as tubing hills, learn-to-ski/board areas and terrain parks; not as a complete snowmaking solution. For larger areas that require coverage, traditional snowmaking remains the more economical option and will continue to play an important role in snowmaking at ski resorts and ski areas.
That being said, the investment of millions of dollars into traditional snowmaking, grooming equipment, lifts and lodges means very little if there is no snow due to elevation, season or climate change. This is why having a SnöFlake system on hand is like taking out an insurance policy on remaining operational.
“If your business is based [in] snow, the SnöFlake is your guarantee that you’ll always have enough quality snow available for people to enjoy,” said Sawin. “You want to be able to open your doors every single day for as many months as you can, and that’s the peace of mind that the SnöFlake system will bring.”
SnöFlake is immensely proud of its commitment to customer service. Company president, Raphael Pelchat, makes sure to be in attendance at each SnöFlake unit’s commissioning and remains in touch with the customer long past the point of purchase to ensure there are no issues with the unit. As far as service and support goes, it doesn’t get much better than the SnöFlake system.
“I’m regularly talking with the employees in charge of maintaining the unit and am always happy to answer any questions they might have,” said Pelchat. “If needed, I can also completely control their SnöFlake unit remotely from my office in Lévis, Quebec, and help the customer troubleshoot problems with the system.”
The response to SnöFlake from those who have experienced it has been extremely positive. The Scaly Mountain Outdoor Center in Scaly Mountain, N.C., credits SnöFlake for being able to open as early in the season as it does. At Oregon’s Mt. Hood Ski Bowl, the use of the SnöFlake system helped to ensure they could install valuable key attractions along the lower half of the mountain over the holidays last year.
“Mt. Hood Ski Bowl told us that a single SnöFlake unit was able to save their Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons,” said Sawin. “They were looking at having no snow at all and instead had a great tubing hill and teaching area, and everyone had a great time. And that’s why we are in business. We enjoy snow and we want to bring that enjoyment to areas that may not be able to experience it otherwise.”
Learn more about the SnöFlake system at www.CHSsnowmakers.com or by visiting www.snoflake.ca.