How does Bristol Mountain get all that skiable snow?

December 20, 2018 11:36 PM

In Rochester, we average just over 100 inches of snowfall a year.

That is a lot, but it is not enough of snow on the ground continuously from December through March to keep that snow skiable.

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Yet, Bristol Mountain stays open for the entire winter season with skiable snow. This is a result of some meteorological physics and an armada of snow making machines as Paul Trippi, the Bristol Mountain manager, explained. 

"We have approximately 150 tower mountain fan guns. Plus, a fleet of 25 mobile fan guns and then 175 plus air water guns. If you took all the snow we made at Bristol Mountain last year and put it on a two-lane road, you could drive to Buffalo on man-made snow," said Trippi. 

But the snow does not just get to the mountain via magic. It starts at ponds at the base of the hill, goes through powerful pumps that put out 4,500 horse power and push about 5,000 gallons per minute up the mountain. Overall, they can put about 120 million gallons of water on the mountain per season.

This is all controlled from a control room called the Mountain Monitoring and Control System where they regulate where the snow goes. It actually is a rather high-tech operation. After running through miles of pipes, the water finally freezes the snow guns.

"There is a fan in the back of the gun that is blowing air through the gun. Nozzles are spraying a fine mist out the front as that goes into the atmosphere, it freezes and falls to the ground as snow."

At their peak running capacity, they can lay a foot of snow down over two acres an hour.

That is also with peak snow making conditions with it in the high teens to low 20s.

Of course natural snow helps as well but artificial snow is hardier and takes longer to melt. This is because artificial snow is laid out and already packed down while natural snow typically has more air in it thus more surface area which increases melting.

Last year by the way, they had snow on the ground until May.  

This overall is a pretty neat setup and for any snow lover, it is sure something to behold. I went there on a clear night but all of the snow making resulted in a blizzard of sorts over the mountain. 


Robert Speta

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