Mulligan's Hollow makes snow

Skiers and snowboarders at the Mulligan's Hollow Ski Bowl enjoy more than natural snow on the slopes. Especially this year.
Krystle Wagner
Jan 3, 2013

 

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.

 

Comments

liveyourdream

I could power my home for 10 years on what it cost to make that snow. These are the kinds of things that we have to curtail to reduce our carbon emissions. No snow, no skiing. Simple as that.

rukidding

I would guess that you would prefer the kids join a gang, harass the elderly, take a burglary class; or they could sit around playing "shoot and kill" video games and gain weight. It's not like our main area of exercise and relaxation, the big pond, is useable right now. If making a little snow for the recreation of the local youth is one of our biggest concerns for the environment; the planet be damned. After all, for some of these kids, skiing is living the dream.

liveyourdream

No disrepect to the ski bums out there. I agree that it is a great sport for families and I enjoy taking a run or two every year. My point is that we should all be more conscience of our carbon footprint, especially when it comes to things that are voluntary and not necessary. Part of the reason we don't have snow right now is because global warming is apparently causing droughts. We are in a still in a severe drought situation in Michigan and way behind on average snowfall again this year. 2012 was the warmest year on record and the last ten years are all in the running as well. The local ski hill is a drop in the bucket when it comes to CO2 emissions especially when compared to areas like Vail, but maybe we can figure out a way to do it better. Before snow machines, we waited and hoped for snow. Before chair lifts and rope tows, we hiked the hills and mountains.

Even if global warming is not real, it is still wise for us to use our resources sparingly. We all have a carbon footprint and we should all challenge ourselves to reduce it where we can to preserve energy and maintain a climate suitable to humans and other plants and animals we depend on. If we really cared about the kids (and the future generations), we'd spew less CO2 into the air, learn to be patient with mother nature, and, for starters, maybe choose to ski when there is natural snow. Preserving a mountain top in West Virginia where much of the coal comes from is an added bonus.

CPinSL

"especially when it comes to things that are voluntary and not necessary."

You mean like sitting on a computer, using energy & complaining about a healthy activity for kids?

My point is, there are many activities that people choose to do that may not interest you, but interest many other people. They may use power or other resources that you feel need to be conserved, however, there are probably things you do that someone else might also argue is wasteful. The beauty of human nature is that we are all different and enjoy different things. Some people enjoy hiking and camping, but don't realize that they are creating sterile area that vegetation can't grow and erodes the land. Not much of a "carbon footprint" (unless you consider HOW you get to the trails), but a footprint none-the-less.

FYI - the first rope tow was invented over a century ago. Snow making has been the norm for many mid-west hills for over 4 decades. These are not new technologies as you implied by your "Before..." comments.

rukidding

I apologize, you are of course correct; and before there were cars I bet you walked to school several miles in that snow; uphill both ways. Stop the snow making, I will make reservations on the non-CO2 emitting aircraft headed for Colorado; I know of several slopes that have natural snow.

liveyourdream

Here is an option for skiers who want to reduce their carbon footprint:
http://www.b-e-f.org/skigreen/

WalmartWolverine

It does not take long to find you are quickly being fancy foot worked on this site. The word “product" keeps being mentioned. Product, what? I am guessing my 2 bucks is $1.96 administrative fees and the other 4 cents is anybody’s guess. The skier’s season cannot be compared to the golfer’s season. All days are good days. Some days are just better than other days. Unfortunately the skier’s do not have many options.

liveyourdream

Sure am sorry to hear that it will be near 60 degrees next weekend. $10,000 worth of snow down the storm sewer and who knows how much carbon into the atmosphere.

GH55

Perhaps we should all be driving up north, in our ginormous SUV, with our snowmobiles! There is a "Green" sport, just like personal watercraft in the summer.
I think the impact of downhill skiing is much less than some of the alternatives.
Its all about choices, cross country skiing is even less of an impact, unfortunately there is no snow here to ski on.

CPinSL

You're absolutely right! And, many cross country trails are groomed using gas-powered vehicles to pull the groomers. I personally feel that the costs of snow making are not as bad as the costs that would mount from overweight kids and kids with idle time.

GH55

Perhaps we should all be driving up north, in our ginormous SUV, with our snowmobiles! There is a "Green" sport, just like personal watercraft in the summer.
I think the impact of downhill skiing is much less than some of the alternatives.
Its all about choices, cross country skiing is even less of an impact, unfortunately there is no snow here to ski on.

 

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