‘It is time’: Cold snap allows Snowshoe to start making snow

Cold, dry air means snow-making can begin three weeks prior to season opener

A snow gun fires off at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia on a cold, November morning (Snowshoe Mountain)

SNOWSHOE, WV. – It’s three weeks until the season opens at Snowshoe Mountain, and the snow guns are fired up already!

The weather is perfect for it, and you may be saying “well duh...it’s cold outside.” While the water that comes out of these cannons has no problem crystallizing into tiny snowflakes when it’s cold, you actually want the air to be drier.

When it’s cold and dry, the ‘wet bulb temperature’ is lower and that’s conducive to making a more powdery snow.

The wet bulb temperature is the temperature that the air can cool to when water is evaporating in it.

Evaporation is a cooling process. You know how you feel chilly when you step out of the shower on a dry day? That’s because the beads of water evaporate off your skin, and you lose heat.

So, let’s say the air temperature is in the 30s and the wet bulb temperature is in the lower 20s. When you shoot the water droplets in the air, they cool to that wet bulb temperature and create a very fine, powdery snow.

How snow cannons work

Shawn Cassell with Snowshoe Mountain says if it weren’t for this quicker way to make snow, you would have to look elsewhere to ski this winter.

“I think a lot of people hear snowmaking, they think it’s artificial snow or it’s full of chemicals or something like that,” Cassell said. “It’s air and water, the same as the snow Mother Nature gives us. We’re just accelerating that process and making a lot more of it.”

Snowshoe opens the weekend of November 24 to 28.

About the Authors:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.