I will be doing a series of “what is” articles, where I explain aspects of winter and skiing related topics, such as in our previous article onSnow Farming Ridges at Timberline Lodge Mt Hood summer skiing. Today, I will be discussing snow farming.  First, a little disclaimer.  I was asked by my Senior Editor to create a large article on snow farming, with a specific deadline. This topic is not too broad, so it was challenging trying to come up with enough to write. That is out there now, so let’s jump into the story.

Snow farming is simple…All you do is get some snow, dig a hole, stick it in the ground, and wait for it to grow! Hold up, that isn’t possible, you say. Well of course not! If you know me, I always start off with a sense of humor!  Snow farming is, (all jokes aside now) the process of packing snow down to ensure that there is enough snow for a time of year when snow does not typically fall, i.e. in the middle of July on at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood, Oregon.

Timberline lodge has a video out on their YouTube channel, detailing the process of this activity. After a snowstorm, the lodge will send their groomers out on snow cats (grooming machines) up the mountain where they will create giant corduroy like ridges in the snow (called spines), eventually forming a backwards slope of snow that is about 10 feet tall.  This wall, and the grooves that go in front of it act as a collection mechanism for the next snowstorm to catch the massive amounts of snow that is dumped and blow above the treeline. Once the new snow fills in the gully that was created by the groomers,  they head up to the glacier again to repeat the process. In the end, by time the glacier opens, they have 60-70 feet of snow to ski on during the summer months. It is really quite interesting, and a great idea.

Now, that is only one type of snow farming. This next one is a technique used by almost all ski resorts is snow blowing. Snow blowing works is by, blow a very fine mist of water into a fan which creates and blows crystals of snow. These fans can be used anywhere on the mountain where there is low snow pack, or in terrain parks that need a little more snow. 

The last type of snow farming I will be discussing today is grooming. It is not necessarily snow farming, but it does fall under this topic in a more general sense.  A tractor like machine called a snow cat puts on an attachment similar to those used to rake baseball fields (but much stronger), and heads out to the slopes. Most people don’t think about where that nice, strong, corduroy in the morning comes from, but in truth it is made by the groomers and their snow cats working very hard through the night. The cats do occasionally get stuck, and I have see only the roof of one sticking out of the snow. Still, without this machine and the people to run it, all we would have is ungroomed runs (which are fun but just not all time).

Indoor ski resorts rely on the second type of farming (snow blowing) to have snow. They have many blowers, and use them in their ski areas. Another use is at the top and bottom of ski lifts, so that there is snow at those places. Man made snow is more prevalent than most people think. Even Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, Alaska makes snow, as their lodge is actually at sea level (the only ski resort in North America who can say that) and Mother Nature doesn’t always do what we want.

Snow Farming is a very important part of skiing and winter sports and without it and our brave late night groomers, Summer Skiing would be nearly impossible. I hope that you have enjoyed this article! See you next time!



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