“Here in the snow gun huge amounts of water and air are being forced through tiny nozzles creating a fine mist that freezes into fresh powder. But while the weather is cold, the temperature is not quite below freezing. So why does this water freeze into snow? Why doesn’t it just rain? Okay…physics.” -Tom Scott
Snow guns are an absolute god sent for resorts and riders alike but did you ever take the time to consider how they work? Cheers to YouTuber Tom Scott who headed up to Lillehammer, Norway to provided a clear and conscience explanation of physics behind snowmaking. Seems like magic they can make snow when it’s above 32F but thanks to bit of thermodynamics, they can. Fascinating.
Snowmaking is a sophisticated process employed at ski resorts worldwide to ensure consistent snow cover for skiing and snowboarding, even in regions with unreliable natural snowfall. It’s a blend of science and engineering that relies on the principles of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics.
The core of snowmaking involves creating tiny ice crystals or snowflakes by atomizing water into a fine mist and then freezing it. This is typically achieved by high-pressure water pumps, air compressors, and specialized nozzles. The key factors in successful snowmaking are temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Ideal conditions are typically around -2°C (28°F) with low humidity, as colder air can hold less moisture.
As the water droplets are propelled into the freezing air, they cool rapidly and freeze, forming small ice particles. These particles then grow as they collide with other ice crystals, becoming larger snowflakes. The resulting snow can be adjusted for different conditions by controlling water pressure, air temperature, and the size of the water droplets.
Snowmaking requires a significant amount of energy, making it an expensive process. However, it has revolutionized the winter sports industry, allowing ski resorts to extend their seasons, improve slope quality, and reduce their dependence on natural snowfall. This blend of science and technology ensures that winter enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite activities even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.