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Home » TRAVEL AND LODGING in VT » VERMONT (all topics) » Making Snow in Vermont
Skiers Early in the Season
Making Snow in Vermont

By Allison Flint | February 13, 2012

How one accidental process, snowmaking, is improving our winter for skiers and boarders.

The ski industry in New England is a vital component of the states’ economy, particularly in Vermont, where ski tourism is a main employer.   According to Michael Hussey, a snowmaking specialist with HKD Snowmakers, of Natick, Massachusetts, Vermont is the third largest ski state behind Colorado and California.   Vermont is small, but its offerings are tremendous.

Natural Snow has been Conspicuously Absent this Year!

Snowy mountains draw skiers and boarders from near and far, and the one ingredient that makes this possible? Snow.

To skiers and boarders, there’s no such thing as too much snow.   Across northern New England, ski areas provide family fun and athletic challenges for all.

FamilySkiTrips provides an annotated list of ski areas in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to meet every visitor’s skiing needs.

When natural snow is inconsistent most ski areas rely on snowmaking to supplement their base, craft snowboarding terrain, and extend their skiing season into the spring.   In fact, the northeast has been making snow since 1934.

According to the New England Ski Museum in Franconia, New Hampshire, the first man-made snow surface in New England was actually indoors, at the Boston Garden Ski Show in 1937.   This snow was described as icy “corn kernels,” and was used as an exhibit.

It wasn’t until 1950 that snowmaking really emerged as a viable method to enhance skiing, and as with many of our most valued innovations (think penicillin and post-it notes), it came about by accident.

Michael Hussey with a Snow Nozzle

Phil Tropeano of Larchmont Farms in Lexington, Massachusetts, was working to develop a warming system to protect Florida’s orange groves from frost using steam.   On December 22, 1950, with temperatures well below freezing, Tropeano experimented with a new nozzle on the steam system.

While he was unable to save any oranges that morning, he did in fact make snow.   His nozzle apparatus was the precursor to modern snowmaking nozzles used today, as developed and patented by HKD, shown by Michael Hussey in the accompanying photo.

Hussey grew up in the the Timber Ridge Ski area in southern Vermont, a resort with a “hometown atmosphere.” Timber Ridge was one of many ski areas to close due to the lack of natural snow in the early 1980s.   Call it a natural weather pattern, or call it the progression of global warming, but winters in New England during the late 1980s and early 1990s were somewhat snowless.

During this time, ski areas were forced to make their own snow or close. Today, Timber Ridge is a private ski area without a working lift, but nearby Stratton and Bromley, part of the original Timber Ridge area, remain active areas due to supplemental snowmaking.

Snow Guns!

The environmental impact of snowmaking is raised with the addition of moisture where it would not be found naturally.   Hussey claims that a mountain top with more snow, particular a packed snow base, can actually be beneficial during the spring melt.

“The snow is higher (in elevation) on the mountain and takes longer to melt in the spring. This extends the run-off, and reduces flooding,” he says.

This unintended consequence, preserving natural terrain and protecting flood prone areas, makes the spring skiing even sweeter.

His company HKD, a global leader in the snowmaking industry, is a sponsor of the Sustainable Slopes grant offered by The Brendle Group in Fort Collins, Colorado.   Applicants compete each year for $15,000 grants by submitting innovative, environmentally conscious and sustainable methods of snowmaking, to be replicated across the industry.

We have months left in our skiing and boarding season in Vermont, looking into April, May, maybe even June this year, with many areas to choose from.   It’s like old times, only snowier.


HKD Snowmakers

15 Mercer Road, Natick, MA 01760

(508) 655-3232

HKD Snowmakers Website

New England Ski Museum

Exit 34B, I-93 / Franconia Notch Parkway, Franconia, NH 03580

(603) 823-7177

New England Ski Museum Website

The New England Lost Ski Area Project

The Project’s Website

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