Win's Word

Top-to-bottom for Opening Day

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What a difference a year makes. We opened for the season on schedule last Saturday with top-to-bottom skiing. It was a great day, with 1,200 people enjoying the snow and the sunshine. We also had a terrific turnout for the Big Kicker at the Big Picture. A bunch of us were trying to remember the last time we began the season top-to-bottom but none of us could come up with a date. If anyone remembers, shoot me an email. This was also one of the earliest openings in years. We were fortunate to have had over ten days of snowmaking temperatures and nine inches of real snow. And our new Snowlogic guns allowed us to put out more water in marginal temperatures. I must admit that when the temperatures hit 70 degrees last Monday, I was worried about getting top-to-bottom for Opening Day. But we did it.

Many people ask me about how we decide whether we can make snow, so here is a brief explanation. It is all about how many hours you get with temps below 25 degrees "wet bulb."

When I was on Killington's website the other day, I noticed this definition and it is a good one: "In snowmaking, one of the most important terms is 'wet bulb.' We typically can’t make snow unless the wet bulb is at 28 degrees or lower....To calculate wet bulb, we take the ambient outside temperature (what the reading is on the thermometer), and adjust it for humidity." So, for instance, ideal snowmaking conditions include an outside temperature of 28 degrees with 50% humidity. That is a "web bulb" reading of 22 degrees. An ambient temp of 28 degrees with 75% humidity is pretty good, but 28 degrees with 100% humidity is marginal for snowmaking. Ambient temperature is not the deciding factor. It is the wet bulb temperature. The lower the humidity, the lower the wet bulb.

Last week at one point (11:30 AM) at the base of LP it was 35 ambient degrees and because the humidity was 57% the wet bulb was 30.4 degrees. Still too high for good snowmaking. At Allyn's Lodge, ambient was 27 degrees and humidity was 77%, so wet bulb was 24.9 degrees which is better for snowmaking. At the summit it was 20 ambient degrees with near 100% humidity, so it was 20 degrees wet bulb and very good for snowmaking.

Snowmaking is complicated and expensive. The objective of our snowmaking team beginning November 1st each year is to make snow whenever the wet bulb temperature is below 25. If we have to, we will make snow in temps up to 28 but at that level it is not very efficient (meaning that we are using a lot of air but not putting out a lot of water that gets converted to snow).

This week the temperatures are not going to be great for snowmaking and the weather is going to be dry. However, the base that we already have should hold up and I expect that we will still be top-to-bottom for Thanksgiving, with skiing on Upper Organgrinder, Upper Jester, Downspout, Lower Downspout, Lower Jester, and Coffee Run. And we still should have the most vertical (2,400 feet) in the East. Our forecast is for colder weather to return sometime on Saturday and possibly some snow as well. If you are planning to be here, Gerry Nooney will be preparing a delicious Thanksgiving buffet in Timbers.

Our new Quad Pack is a great success and I would just remind everyone that it is available only through midnight November 30th.

I also want to remind all of our Fancy, All Mountain 7, and Mt. Ellen passholders that they are entitled to some great resort discounts and valley benefits. We have cards at the ticket office which list all the dining, lodging, tuning, Adventure Gear, and Ski & Ride discounts that are available to these passholders as well as the various benefits at businesses throughout the Mad River Valley. You can also find our Mountain-Valley Benefits listed on the Sugarbush website on the season-pass page by scrolling to the bottom of that section.

Finally, don't forget about Ski the Valley Week which is always a great way to get tuned-up for the season.

So far, the hornets were right.


About Win Smith
President & Owner

So what would you expect a former Executive Vice President of Merrill Lynch to do when he retires? Lay low in the islands? Nope. He moves north and works seven days a week right here at Sugarbush. Check out what he's been thinking.

Learn More about Win Smith >


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