Snowmaking Startup

With temperatures reaching -15 this morning in Lake Louise, one would think there’s no better time to fire up our extensive snowmaking system in order to get a jump start on the season. That may be true, but there other factors involved that dictate when and how we get started.

First on the list are the conditions of our water use permit, which first and foremost do not allow us to draw water from the Pipestone River until Oct 15, which is the same every year. Once we reach that date, a few other conditions must be met before we begin. First, the flow of the Pipestone River must be at least 90% of its usual flow for the time of year. Once that’s the case, we cannot use any more than 10% of whatever that flow happens to be. When snowmaking is up and running, we are required to monitor the river flow daily to ensure both these conditions are met. And finally, we need cooperation from the temperatures, which can vary widely at this time of year (as confirmed by the -30 temps being forecast for Lake Louise on Monday).

So, with midnight of next Wednesday quickly approaching, there’s lots of work to be done to prepare. On Saturday, all of our 50 snowmaking staff begin their training – the first department to do so. Once that wraps up, it’s all hands on deck to position the guns and their associated air and water hoses so they’re ready when the time comes. For electric-powered fan guns that get placed far from any power source, we also need to place generators in the right spots. These were all flown into place by helicopter on Monday, along with the fuel drums and containment trays that hold any fuel that may leak or spill.


Elsewhere on the mountain, final tests are being performed on the lifts, and work continues transforming Glacier Express back into a winter lift. This involves removing the gondola cabins that get placed on the line for summer sightseeing, and changing the ramp at the top station from a staircase to a ramp.

The Trail Crew is continuing with the pounding of steel for snow fence, and have also begun to tie fence onto posts already in the ground. While the upper mountain appears from the base to have a nice coating of snow, there isn’t nearly enough yet to travel on skis, and crews are still on foot. The earliest I can ever remember skiing on the mountain was on October 18 about ten years ago, when most of the fencelines on Summit had collected enough to snow to permit travel on skis.

It has only been a few weeks since the Bow Valley enjoyed near-record temperatures for September, almost reaching 30C in Banff. And with -30 looming for Monday, it’s almost as though we skipped autumn and went from summer right into winter. Given how nice September was in the area, few people are complaining.

Summit on October 9, 2009.

Summit on October 9, 2009.


One Comment on “Snowmaking Startup”

  1. mspelto says:

    Thanks for the low down on the restrictions on early season snowmaking. In the Alps snowmaking has been underway for a month using a new system, that is not needed with the low temps the Lake Louise enjoys and the fact that summer skiing is not the emphasis.

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