Massive snowmaking system keeps slopes open

With little natural snow in the last week, skiers and riders may be worried about the state of the Sierra's slopes. Fear not. At Heavenly Mountain Resort, the West Coast's largest snowmaking system has been working around the clock blowing fresh snow all over the mountain.

"We're not just making snow, but making quality snow," said Heavenly snowmaking manager Barrett Burghard. "The snow we've been making on The Face is so good, we call it 'butter' because you can carve through it so smoothly. We're able to make such high-quality snow because of the automated fan guns. We just decide what quality we want and dial it in."

Under optimum conditions, Heavenly can produce 31Ú2 feet of snow over one acre in an hour. That's enough snow to blanket a football field with 81Ú2 feet during an average three-hour game. This ability, coupled with Lake Tahoe's largest grooming fleet, is giving Heavenly's slopes the quality "midwinter feel" guests have come to expect.

Heavenly has consistently made snow on popular runs such as Gunbarrel, The Face, East Bowl, Little Dipper, North Bowl and High Roller. Snowmaking has also allowed Heavenly to open three terrain parks, with its night park and superpipe open.

Snowmaking is no longer an art, it's a science. Heavenly's state-of-the-art snowmaking system is computerized, allowing for more snow to be produced in a shorter period at a better quality. Using the latest computer technology, the snowmaking operators constantly monitor the system for changes in air temperature, water pressure, wind direction and other elements critical to making quality snow.

There are several benefits to machine-made snow. When groomed properly, machine-made snow will maintain its consistency longer. Snowmakers can also control the water content in the snow.

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