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Mulligan's Hollow makes snow

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Mother Nature has provided the Tri-Cities with some snow, but not enough for the Ski Bowl to be open.

So, for the past week and a half, a crew has worked almost around the clock to cover Grand Haven’s popular slopes, which opened last week.

John Speruit, hill operations manager for the Ski Bowl, said they have been rotating shifts to get the hills covered with white. He said they’re focusing their efforts this week on building up jumps and mounds.

Throughout the winter season, Speruit said it costs $8,000 and $10,000 to pay for electricity, manpower and covering the entire ski area.

The Ski Bowl's 10 snowmaking machines are hooked to nozzles with pressure boosted to 180 pounds per square inch. That water is then sprayed into the cold air by a fan. The next morning, they spread the pile throughout the hill.

Jim Key, a snow groomer, said the water turns into tiny ice flakes, as opposed to the snowflakes that fall from the sky.

“It’s a lot sturdier,” he said of the man-made snow.

Speruit said man-made snow compacts better than natural snow, allowing skiers to not poke down into the ground. Ten inches of man-made snow compacts down to 7 inches once it’s groomed out, while 10 inches of natural snow compacts down to 3 inches, Speruit explained.

It takes the crew almost three days to make enough snow to cover the front hill and four additional days to cover the back hills.

Speruit said they start off by building a base of 12 inches, and then eventually increase it up to 2-3 feet.

Mulligan's Hollow often hovers around the 32-degree "freeze" mark, Speruit said, and the humidity doesn’t help when it comes to making snow.

“It’s probably one of the hardest places to make snow,” he said.

While machines can make snow 10 times faster than it falls from the sky, it doesn’t cover the same amount of area.

The machines cover a distance of 80 feet wide and 150 feet long, making about an inch an hour. Once the hard ice flakes fall into a pile, the crew has to groom it out the next day.

Although the snowmakers have covered the hills, it doesn’t mean they’re abandoning the area.

“We’ll make snow every so often to freshen up the hills,” Speruit said.

For up-to-date information on the Ski Bowl, click here.

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