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Try these snowmaking whizzes for some of the best manmade snow in skidom.
We’d like to believe that global warming is just some enviro-freak theory and that the waning snowfall of recent years is simply a natural ebb in nature’s flow. But the facts don’t offer much hope. Consider: 1999 was the warmest year of the 20th century, and the century’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 1985. Consider: Scientists predict the earth’s average temperature could rise by as much as six degrees in the next century. Consider: Ah, forget it. It’s just not much fun to consider.
Instead, do your noble best to reduce global warming, then head to one of the following resorts, handpicked for their skill at turning a humble mix of air and water into snow. Of course, these are great mountains to visit in even the deepest of winters, but thanks to their cutting-edge snowmaking systems, the party doesn’t end when the view from your window looks nut brown and bleak. True, it won’t be an entirely au natural skiing experience, but it’s still gonna put a big, fat smile on your face. And there’s nothing unnatural about that.
SUNDAY RIVER, Maine
A decade ago, Sunday River was a sleepy Maine ski mountain. Now, it’s a bustling resort, thanks to its impeccable reputation among manmade-snow aficionados. Whether that reputation is born from expansive coverage (607 acres); the resort’s ability to customize its snow according to weather, terrain, and skier level; or the proprietary, patented snow guns hardly matters, because the result is the same: “This is a place where people race to get freshies in manmade,” trumpets Skip King, VP of operations.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 607 (of 660 total)
> number of snow guns: 1,500
> number of different snow grades regularly made: 10
> info: 207-824-3000; www.sundayriver.com
When zealous Northeast skiers want to start their season in October and push it into May, Killington is where they go. Thanks to a supercharged snowmaking system that’s just been bolstered by 30 percent, Killington’s able to stack a 20-foot base on Superstar and offer the longest ski season of any Northeastern resort — longer, even, than most Western resorts.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 752 (of 1182 total)
> number of snow guns: 1,850
> number of lifts served by snowmaking: 32
> info: 802-422-3261; www.killington.com
HUNTER, New York
Hunter is often used as a proving ground for snowmaking technology, so it’s always on the cutting edge. But perhaps even more impressive is the ski area’s ability to recover from foul weather: In a mere six to eight hours, Hunter’s snowmakers can resurface 80 percent of the mountain.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 230 (of 230 total)
> number of snow guns: 1,400
> info: 800-FOR-SNOW; www.huntermtn.com
Okemo has earned a well-deserved reputation for creating Vermont’s finest artificial surface, most likely because the snowmakers and groomers regularly put in 72-hour weeks in peak season. Okemo has also received a bevy of awards for its environmental policies, so you can enjoy your manmade guilt free.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 495 (of 520 total)
> number of snow guns: 765
> info: 802-228-5222; www.okemo.com
MOUNT SUNAPEE, New Hampshire
Sunapee can pump 3,000 gallons of snowmaking water each minute, thanks to a recent doubling of pipe capacity, and Lake Sunapee, which, at 40 square miles, is one of the largest resort water sources in the Northeast. Sunapee’s not satisfied with mere quantity, though: The resort runs snowmaking water through a cooler, helping to create a better snow crystal and increase the temperature margin in which it can blow snow. And, because it’s operated by Okemo, Sunapee uses the same grooming techniques that have garnered its Vermont-based sister multiple awards.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 213 (of 220 total)
> number of snow guns: 428
> gallons of water pumped annually to make snow: 100,000,000
> info: 603-763-2356; www.mtsunapee.com
MOUNTAIN CREEK, New Jersey
Mountain Creek’s snowmaking arsenal has been tinkered with to fire at full power even at marginal temps (those dreaded numbers that hang around the 30-degree mark), so when other resort managers in the region are shaking fists at the sky, the crew at Mountain Creek is busy spreading white joy.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 168 (of 168 total)
> number of snow guns: 1,000
> info: 973-827-2000; www.mountaincreek.com
If you spent 1,500 hours a year doing something, you’d get pretty good at it, too. In Sugarloaf’s case, that something is making snow, and when you couple all those hours of practice with the ‘Loaf’s chilly northern location, you get a serious bounty of snow that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 490 (of 530 total)
> number of snowmaking hydrants: 988
> info: 207-237-6808; www.sugarloaf.com
What do you do when you have the most powerful snowmaking system in all of Canada? Why, you increase your capacity to blow snow in marginal temps by 50 percent, of course — so you can serve up the freshies even when the thermometer suggests otherwise.
> acres covered by snowmaking: 488 (of 610 total)
> amount of water Tremblant converts to snow every winter: 350,400,000 gallons
> number of guns converting that water: 790
> info: 88-TREMBLANT; www.tremblant.ca
If manmade just isn’t your thing, then make your way to Jay Peak, Vermont (802-988-9601; www.jaypeakresort.com). Last year, while most other Northeastern resorts were suffering through one of the lowest-snowfall seasons in memory, Jay racked up 488 inches of natural snowfall.