Many people believe recycling snow melt is not possible or practical. It is certainly true that there are many operational and engineering obstacles. No single stream can supply enough water to meet a ski area’s snow making needs, and a distributed gathering network would be difficult to manage in winter conditions.
Our SnowPod™ is designed to address these technical problems and to make collecting the snowmelt as straightforward as using a ski-area’s legacy system—minus the cost of pumping all that water up hill.
To begin with, the valve that diverts the flow to the snow gun can be operated remotely and controlled through a browser-based interface. The SnowPod™ is also designed to generate its own power from the stream’s water, as it flows through the device This way, the device can be installed in remote places with no access to external power. At Saddleback, since this is a test site, the SnowPod™ will also be connected to an external power source.
As anyone who has ever skied at Saddleback with a cell phone in an outer pocket will know, electronic equipment will not operate at typical winter temperatures in northern Maine. To address this problem, we used high-conductive metal pipes inside the device. While the ambient temperature will drop well below zero degrees, the flowing water remains at a comparatively warm 32 F. This will help keep the electronic equipment inside the box within their design temperature ranges.
To measure the stream flow, we plan to channel all the water from the upper weir through a large pipe. By measuring the speed and depth of the water in the pipe, we can calculate the volumetric flow rate. In the picture above, the water is flowing through the small pipe. This will be sealed off when the installation is completed.
To ensure we are measuring all the water, we needed a pipe that was large enough to take all the water during peak flow conditions. For our stream, this required us to use the giant 10” pipe shown above.
Our analysis suggests this one stream, after a large rainstorm, should provide enough water to cover upper Green Weaver in snow. Primarily due to cost constraints, our prototype can’t do this. It’s designed to recycle a maximum of 75 gpm, a small portion of the total volume of water available.
Saddleback’s legacy system is limited by its pumping capacity, which was recently upgraded to 4,000 gpm. At this rate, in 48 hours Saddleback could pump up to 11.5 million gallons to make snow. By comparisson, if SnowPods™ were spread out over the mountain, a single large storm could provide 45 million gallons, almost 4 times more water. This would allow the resort to recover faster from rain events at a fraction of the cost.