Ski resort caliber snowmaking equipment is designed to make a lot of snow per hour. Typically these snowguns flow anywhere from 15-65gpm of water
each. Some snowguns have the capability to flow in excess of 200gpm based on the weather conditions. That’s a lot of water being converted into snow!
Since ski resort size snowguns make so much snow, ski resorts use industrial size air compressors and water pumps to feed the snowmakers. These
compressors and pumps cannot be used at home because they draw too much power that your home cannot provide.
Since home snowmakers flow much less water than ski resort snowmakers, they are scaled down to a much smaller size. Since you are flowing less
water into the snowmaker, you also need much less compressed air to nucleate the water. This means instead of using an industrial size air
compressor, you can use a normal household size air compressor. So in basic terms home snowmakers are just a smaller, scaled down version of the
snowmakers you see at ski resorts.
The Weather and Snowmaking
Snowmaking is very weather dependent. A common misconception is that you can make snow anytime the outside temperature drops below freezing
(32ºF or 0ºC). Believe it or not sometimes you cannot make snow when it is below freezing, but you can when the temperature is at or above freezing.
This is because snowmaking goes by the wet bulb temperature. This is the ambient temperature with the humidity level factored in. It should be noted
that it is rare to make snow above 30ºF unless the humidity is very low.
Ideally for home snowmaking you can start making snow when the wetbulb temperature is 27ºF or less, especially if you are using a snowmaker that
runs off of a pressure washer or snowmaking pump. A 27ºF wetbulb temperature is typically achieved once the outside air temperature reaches 28ºF or
less. If the humidity is low, you can reach a wetbulb temperature of 27ºF when the air temperature is 30ºF or 31ºF. You can find wet bulb temperature
calculators online by searching for “wet bulb calculator” on any major search engine. These calculators ask for your air temperature and humidity and
then calculate your wet bulb temperature.
The higher your wet bulb temperature, the wetter your snow quality will be. As the wet bulb temperature drops, your snow quality will increase by getting
drier. Home snowmakers that run off of a standard garden hose work better in marginal snowmaking conditions. This is because the snowmaking
process these snowmakers follow require them to use more compressed air (CFM). So even though they make much less snow compared to our
snowmakers that run off of pressure washers, they will make higher quality snow in marginal snowmaking conditions or make snow when our other
Making Snow in Warm Areas
People always ask us if they can make snow in the deep south where they maybe get a few nights per year where it gets below freezing. The answer is
yes! Anywhere it gets below 28ºF you can make your own real snow with our home snowmakers. Over the years we have had people make snow as far
south as central Florida. The issue with making snow in the south is that you deal with warmer tap water temperatures. Sometimes this means you have
to wait until it gets a bit colder than 28ºF to make snow. Most people don't have any issues making snow at all even with the warm tap water.
Our advice if you live in a warm area is to get your snowmaking equipment early. This way you can be ready to go when the cold weather arrives. Too
often people in warm areas wait until the cold weather arrives to order their snowmaker. Then by the time their snowmaker arrives, the cold snap is gone
and they are stuck waiting for the next one. Nobody can control the weather so it is best to be ready before the cold weather arrives if you want to make
snow in a warm area.
Water Temperature and Snowmaking
Ski resorts let the water they use for snowmaking sit in large retention ponds that they aerate to prevent the water from freezing until it is used. They let
the water sit in these retention ponds so that they can get the water as cold as possible without it freezing. The cooler the water temperature, the better
it is for snowmaking. Ideally ski resorts try to get the water temperature down to around 34 to 40ºF.
Since most household tap water is 50ºF+ you need to compensate for the warmer water when trying to make snow. This is done by using certain
materials in the construction of the snowmaker and by using different snowmaking nozzles. All of our home snowguns are designed to operate with
normal household water temperature. For those that live in warm areas, you may want to use longer lengths of water hose when you are making snow to
try and lower your water temperature or try cooling your water down by other means.
Internal Mix and External Mix Snowmakers
There are two types of snowmakers, internal mix and external mix. Internal mix snowmakers mix the compressed air and water INSIDE of the snowmaker.
External mix snowmakers mix the compressed air and water on the OUTSIDE of the snowmaker. Each design has it benefits and drawbacks.
Internal mix snowmakers tend to be more efficient because they use less compressed air and tend to work better in marginal snowmaking conditions.
Since the air and the water mix inside of the snowmaker, internal mix snowmakers rarely have problems in windy snowmaking conditions. It is for these
reasons that all of our snowmakers are internal mix. This is also why most snowmakers at ski resorts are internal mix as well.
External mix snowmakers require more air (CFM) in order to operate. As a result they are not as compatible with smaller sized air compressors. The
nucleation nozzle set up on external mix snowmakers doesn’t work too well in windy conditions. Often times the mist from the nucleation nozzles blows
BEHIND the snowmaker if the wind is blowing against your snowmaker. This prevents you from making snow in windy conditions. External mix
snowmakers are also highly prone to freezing on windy or very cold nights at the nucleation nozzles. If the nucleation nozzles freeze, your snowmaker
will not be able to make snow.
Home Snowmaking without Compressed Air
We get a lot of questions from people each winter about making snow without an air compressor. While ski resorts are able to make snow without
compressed air, it cannot be done on the home scale. We wouldn't really call it "snow" that the airless snowmakers at ski resorts make either.
Ski resorts use an additive in their water for airless snowmakers and due to environmental laws this additive is not available for sale to the general
public, plus it is very expensive. Airless snowmakers at ski resorts also use special nozzles that are very expensive. As mentioned before, ski areas pre-
cool their water to get it as cold as possible. This combined with the additive helps the water freeze extremely quickly. The major drawback to airless
snowmakers is that they can only operate in really cold temperatures. Airless snowmakers at ski resorts are known to make VERY POOR quality snow
and they produce more "ice balls" than snow.
No matter how fine of a mist you get from a certain nozzle or how powerful your pressure washer is, you just cannot make snow without compressed air.
You need the compressed air to super cool the water in order to create the “seed” used to form snow. Using just a pressure washer to try and make
snow without compressed air will result in making ice at the very best.
The process of making snow is pretty simple, mix compressed air and water in cold weather and you will
make snow. While this seems simple, there are a lot of other factors that come in to play which can make
snowmaking very complicated. Home snowguns make snow following the same processes that ski resort
snowguns use, but there are some differences.
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