Forty years of Snowmaking at Paoli peaks


In the 40 years since Paoli Peaks has opened its slopes there has been many changes and advances to the snowmaking system!  In the first years with only six mobile fan snow machines to the 110 snow machines we have today capable of pumping 6000 gallons of water a minute.  Surely by now you know that Mother Nature does not bless the Southern Indiana hills with plenty of fluffy white stuff, so much desired and needed for the activity we like to pursue in winter!

Since the birth of snowmaking in the forties, technology has developed to a point where it has become feasible to produce machine snow even in warmer climates.  Some of the basic requirements for the manufacturing of snow are compressed air and water.  Additionally, Paoli Peaks’ system requires electricity for the operation of the blowers and compressors.

The air and water are both, independently piped up the hill in large pipes which are networked onto each of the slopes.  At the snowmaking station, or towers, both water and air are pumped into the snowmaking machine under high pressure and the two elements are combined in the nucleator, where it forms the nucleus, a tiny snow crystal.  With water near freezing temperature and air expanding at 110 psi to normal atmospheric pressure, we create a refrigeration effect whereby each water deposit will instantly become a tiny snow crystal.  Now, depending on the temperature, we add anywhere from 16 to 200 gallons of water per minute per snowmaking tower.  This water is sprayed so finely that it clings to the snow crystal and forms a snowflake.  At this point, an electric fan within the machine blows the whole mass of snow crystals onto the slopes.

The most efficient snowmaking occurs in the upper teens with low humidity.  At these temperatures, an optimum amount of water can be added to the nucleus without causing any freezing problems.  As temperatures and humidity rise, the amount of water needs to be decreased in order to create a dry, fluffy quality of snow.  Snow can be efficiently made at a temperature and humidity factor not exceeding 100, and temperatures up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.


Temperature 16 degrees, Humidity 50% = Factor 66 (Excellent Snowmaking)

Temperature 25 degrees, Humidity 50% = Factor 75 (Good Snowmaking)

Temperature 28 degrees, Humidity 40% = Factor 68 (Possible Snowmaking)

Temperature 23 degrees, Humidity 98% = Factor 121 (Poor or impossible snowmaking)

Because of the large demand for snow, Ski Paoli Peaks is indeed among the ski resorts in the US that can boast the largest per acre production capacities.  In terms of energy efficiency, we can lay claim to be among the best.  You may notice above ground, the extensive network of stationary fan type snow machines.  What you can’t see and what perhaps few of you are aware of is the large underground network of electrical wire and miles of 12” and 8” pipe connecting over 110 tower snow guns.  This system allows us to pump a capacity of 200 gallons per minute per acre or over 6,000 gallons of water per minute on our slopes.  It takes about 160,000 gallons of water to make one acres of snow one foot deep.  Pumping some 6,000 gallons of water per minute translates to about six inches of snow over the entire ski area in a 12 hour night.  Usually we can open in 3 days with good temps to some up snowmaking it’s a challenging yet rewarding job that will give you a great sense of accomplishment when you see the slopes covered in the white stuff and people laughing and enjoying winter!