December 21st, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 51
Pass Powderkeg to open on Friday
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Archive photo
Pass Powderkeg Ski Hill
Pass Herald Reporter
Get your poles out and your skis waxed because Dec. 23 marks the opening of the Pass Powderkeg Ski Hill in Blairmore.

Over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed the hazy white clouds above the mountain, the result of the Pass Powderkeg pumping some 400 gallons per minute to make snow. “We use fan guns to blow water droplets into the air. Mother Nature turns it into snow,” says Brad Murray, municipal project manager.

To artificially pack 10 inches of snow for the base requires approximately eight to 10 times more than natural snow would require. “Quality isn’t always about your snow-making equipment and largely about the conditions when you’re making it,” says Murray. “There are lots of factors that go into it.”

According to Murray, the conditions on the hill are looking “really good.” He notes that the Christmas break is generally the hill’s busiest time of the year. “It’ll be great to get back out there,” he adds.

As is typical, only the lower mountain will be accessible for opening day. “We’ll open that so we can offer people skiing, and then we go to the upper stuff and start snowmaking.”
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Murray cautions that nailing ideal snow conditions is weather-dependent. “Mother Nature’s the one that turns it into ice, so we have to have the right conditions.”

When it comes to making snow, colder is better. “The colder it is, the more efficient it is, because we loose less to leaching out of the bottom of the pile, as water. We also add a natural product to the water that help those droplets freeze faster and at higher temperatures.” Ideal temperatures for snowmaking are minus 10 and below.

Near the start of the cold snap that hit southern Alberta at the beginning of December, a malfunction in the main pump caused a setback in making snow. “It’s hard on any piece of equipment when it’s 30 below, but as far as the snow coming down, it’s great.”
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The hitch, however, did not delay the ski hill from opening in time for the holidays. Murray notes that the winter season is already off to a better start than the last two years, which didn’t have the conditions that they have this year and were lacking snow. “Generally, our goal is to try and open right before Christmas and the Christmas break. Some years in the past, it’s been a challenge for them to get open for that time,” he says.

Skiers and snowboarders will have five new runs to enjoy this season including a resurrection of Ski Jump, which is where ski jumping took place during the Alberta Winter Games in 1986. “Especially the kids around here, they probably haven’t had that to ski yet. It will have some natural features in it, like rollers, but we’re not building a ski jump per sey.” The Ski Jump run will be ready for use later in the season.

Seven additional runs are projected to open for 2017/2018.
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December 21st ~ Vol. 85 No. 51
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