Gore Mountain Snowmaking Upgrades (2011)

Mike Pratt upgrades Gore Mountain snowmakingOver the last ten years, Gore Mountain has had more terrain expansion than any mountain in New York. At the same time, the Gore snowmaking has made significant strides — increasing water supply, pumping capacity and snow-gun efficiency. We spoke to Mike Pratt, General Manager at Gore and asked him about this summer’s plans for snowmaking improvements.

NYSkiBlog: You’ve made incremental progress on snowmaking over the past several summers. What’s going on this year?

Mike Pratt: We’re undertaking our most significant snowmaking upgrade since we tapped into the Hudson River in 1996. We’re buying and installing 130 new fixed location HKD Impulse Tower Guns.

These guns have extremely high energy-efficiency ratios, multi-flow operational flexibility, enhanced cold weather energy savings and 30’ towers to gain hang time as well as pivoting and lean out capability. We demo’d one on on Echo last season. The performance was excellent.

NYSB: Where are you going to put them?

Mike: The new guns are going on Sunway, Otter Slide, 3B, Quicksilver, Sleighride, and Sagamore. Currently there are 50 fixed guns on those trails that are being displaced. We’ll refurbish them and move them up to Sleeping Bear and Pete Gay on the North Side.

We’re also installing fan gun receptacles at towers 2, 3, and 4 of the Gondola. This will allow us to move our fan guns into place and cover the Arena quickly. The air/water guns that are freed up will also be moved up the mountain.

NYSB: When we talked about snowmaking last year, you said that Gore could make 15 acre feet of snow each day. How will this affect that number?

Mike: Many mountains quote theoretical numbers on snowmaking capacity. The number I gave you last year — 15 acre feet per day — is an actual, and fairly conservative number. At times we would make more snow than my estimate, but we couldn’t do it consistently. Early season is the toughest time to make snow, and that number was a reasonable estimate for capacity at that time.

Currently, we aren’t getting maximum snow production from our pumping capacity. This is primarily due to our limited number of guns, and our limited number of energy-efficient guns. This additional hardware will allow us to approach 30 acre feet of snow a day. We’ll be able to use our water capacity more efficiently and productively — especially during the early season.

No tower guns on Showcase?

Ratnik Sky Giant

There really is an ideal gun for every spot on the mountain. The HKD Impulse tower guns aren’t suited for liftline runs — you want to keep the blown snow down low and off the cables and sheaves. We’re looking at a shorter energy-efficient gun for placement on Showcase and eventually Wild Air.

We’ve got our eye on 30 Ratnik Sky Giant VI guns for Showcase. These guns are 10’ tall and give us the ability to shoot snow under the lift. We hope to buy these this year.

NYSB: What’s the cost of the new equipment?

Mike: This is a $573,000 project. We should save that amount in electricity in less than four seasons.  If the cost of energy rises, the payoff will be even faster.

NYSB: How will the project be financed?

Mike: We applied for, and received a grant from National Grid that covers 50% of cost. We are matching that with funds from ORDA.  With half the money coming from private sources, ORDA’s payoff will take less than two years.

NYSB: All of these improvements are slated for the lower mountain. Is the primary benefit for the upper mountain that you can get to it sooner?

Mike: The new equipment will allow us to get to the upper mountain sooner because we will be able to cover the lower mountain faster. But there’s more to it.

On the upper mountain snowmaking is naturally more efficient — both the air temperatures and the snowmaking water are colder up top. We’re focusing on the lower mountain because it’s more expensive to make snow at the bottom.  By placing super-efficient guns where we make snow early and often, we gain the largest possible energy savings.

NYSB: Mike this is big news, thanks for the details.

13 comments on “Gore Mountain Snowmaking Upgrades (2011)

  1. This sounds like a really smart move but utilizing the grant and having a short pay back. Where is the $300k coming from as I thought that no capex projects were going to get funded this year? Any word if WF is doing the same?

  2. This is great news for Gore and Gore skiers. Way more of the mountain will be open during Xmas week and the first weeks of Jan. Kudos to M Pratt for figuring out a way to get this done. The quick payback indicates how important it is for ski areas to update snowmaking guns as the technology improves and energy prices increase.

    Also big thanks to NYSB for getting this information. Most times we hear about new guns but do not really understand what this can do for skiers.

  3. I am a southern skier now, and I can tell you that the HKD guns are everywhere these days, for their efficiency and ability to work in more marginal conditions than your old style ground based guns. Did you ever hear the story about how they were invented by Henry K Dupree, the son of the wealthy founders of Seven Springs, PA? Hence the name HKD. Henry had nothing to do, since Daddy had so much money, so he spent his time tinkering with snowmaking in the barn, and came up with the greatest snowmaking invention in the past 40 years.

    To me, the beauty is how quiet they are compared with ground based guns. You can ski through HKDs during snowmaking ops (which is pretty much every day of December and January in West Virginia and North Carolina). They don’t blast the skier in the face like standard guns.

    To me, the only better equipment is lift tower mounted electric fan guns, that cover a huge amount of acreage, and don't require a compressed air supply. However, you need substantial electric lines to support them, which is why they are mostly used on lift towers. I could see fan guns up Showcase on Gore, also possibly on Cloud, where I recall those giant power lines to the old Gondola summit station. And put a few around the base area: Gore has a history of beginner terrain melting out long before other areas lose their lower mountain. You can ski the lower beginner terrain of Mt Snow and Stratton well into April, when Gore has nothing left at base.

  4. Thanks for the report. This should make for a better season if we don’t get that heavy snowfall that was predicted earlier!

  5. 70s Gore, The inventor was Herman K Dupree, not Henry. His father was not wealthy, Herman was a main force in building up the resort and the primary inventor of the HKD. Get your facts before posting.

  6. Just wanted to say that Mike has been working on this proposal for over two years. It’s a testament to his persistence and love for Gore. Any GM knows that high efficiency guns are a good investment. But to pull this off in this environment is a triumph of persistence. I didn’t want to clog this great news up with a detailed discussion of the paperwork and elbow grease required to finance this project. But it was considerable. Props to Mike, his team and ORDA.

    There is more good news coming in the next few days. Gore isn’t the only ORDA venue making progress this summer.

    Kid – the ability to use fan guns in the Arena is going to make a huge difference at the base. And don’t forget that the North Side is getting a big upgrade out of this too.

    Shaman, Rochester Mark, X – I am as jazzed as you are, see you all on the Darkside.

  7. This is awesome!! Kudos to Mike for all his hard work!! And Hail to the snowmakers, who go out on the mountain on the cold dark nights to position those snow guns and hook up the pipes to lay down the goods for us snow junkies.

  8. Anonymous: Thanks for correcting me on the Herman – Henry bit. My bad. I guess you should not put that much stock in stories told at the bar at the end of a day of skiing. Now, have I ever told you how Harvey is really an heir to NY’s Rockefeller fortune…or is it the Saudis…

  9. 70s Gore Kid, I thought Harv’s claim to fame was he was related to Paris Hilton! Or so I thought I heard in the bar at the end of the day!

  10. This is great news! Gives me some more ammunition with the Mrs. to convince her to move there. Think I picked the wrong lot to convince her. Shes pulling for NH these days, but any news at Gore is good news for me!

    I’m still not super familiar with trail names, does this affect the trails down at the ski bowl at all?

  11. AdironRider: Trails getting new snow guns are on the on the East Side and on Sagamore (1200 vert) on Burnt Ridge. Plus there are some fairly new tower guns being relocated from the East Side to the North Side. No new snowgun hardware is scheduled to be added to the Ski Bowl this year. While the concept of putting the most efficient guns at the lowest elevations is quite logical, I think the overriding factor is getting those East Side trails open as quickly as possible. In the ski business Christmas is incredibly important, and this is IMO the best use of the new hardware. Will be very cool if the 30 new Ratnik Sky Giants for Showcase are part of the deal. This is still TBD.

  12. Quick update: New posts for the HKD guns are installed, and the new guns should arrive right after Columbus Day, and go in fairly quickly. Ratnik guns for Showcase are still a distinct possibility for this year, but not a done deal.

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