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Good Question: How Do Ski Hills Make Snow?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – While there are some tricks involved, it may surprise you to learn that machine-made snow is made up of exactly the same stuff as natural snow: frozen water.

And while every ski resort has a different source of water, the one at Wild Mountain, in Taylors Falls, is at the top, in the form of a reservoir.

But before putting the water into the snow machines, it has to be cool.

“When you spray it into the air, it takes a long time to cool, so if you have cool water when you’re making the snow, you can make it quicker and more efficiently,” said Dan Raedeke, an engineer at Wild Mountain.

The reservoir has a fountain that helps keep the water cool by spraying it into the cold air above.

But the particle of water that’ll eventually be sprayed in the air (and turned to snow) first has to be broken down. If you have to big a molecule, Raedeke says, it takes too long to freeze.

But that’s where the pumps come in.

Wild Mountain has many 250-horsepower pumps that push the water into pipes that distribute the water from the reservoir to various runs.

The water travels through 30 miles of piping to the snow guns, where the water is met with compressed air.

“The compressed air is mixed with a little bit of water, and that’s making the nucleus,” Raedeke said.

Why do you need a nucleus? Because you have to have something for water to freeze onto.

The snow machines shoot out nuclei alongside cool water, so that the water freezes on the nuclei, forming snow, basically.

Then the white stuff accumulates and before long it’s ready for skiers and snowboarders to ride on.

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