Vail and Winter Park resorts shoot the clouds to make more snow

Posted By: The Ski Channel on October 12, 2009 5:36 am

Leave it to Colorado to think of the coolest and most natural ways to increase their snowmaking capabilities. This year, the Winter Park ski area is going in on a $110,000 snowmaking project with Denver Water to increase the amount of snow. 110 G’s? Hmm. Better be good. Well, turns out that the Vail resort has been using this same project for 30 years, spending $30,000 a month on it. 

So what is this expensive project and why is it so popular??

They call is cloud seeding. No hippies behind this endeavor, it’s actually quite scientific and effective (but not without its fair share of problems). Basically how it works is that these cloud seeding generators (in the pic) shoot off iodide particles into the clouds. These particles act as crystals of ice nuclei, which increase the chances of that cloud producing snow. There are already ice nuclei in the clouds. and the generator just adds some more.

The problems with this? The main one is that even if the generators shoot the particles right at the storm clouds (which in of itself is a difficult process), what’s to stop the clouds from drifting away from the resort? You can control what goes into the clouds, but you can’t control where they go. Yet…mwahaha…

While that problem persists, Vail still claims that the cloud seeding produces 8 to 25 percent deeper snowfall than other Colorado ski areas, and in the end, it’s cheaper than other forms of snowmaking. Cool stuff.