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Highlands Buzz 1.12.18

Highlands Buzz 1.12.18

Catch up with Keriann!
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Machine groomed for Tuesday, January 16

Temperature Open Trails Open Lifts Open Terrain
N 6 °F 41 Trails of 55 7 Lifts of 10 324 Acres of 435
Base Depth Snowfall Today's Hours
39 - 57″ 1″ 24 Hours 9:00AM - 4:30pm
Today at Boyne Highlands  

Lifts spin 9am-4:30pm today!

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We Love Our Snowmakers!

Every November when the temperatures start to drop and the once brightly colored leaves have turned brown, those of us in the ski industry begin our winter snow rituals. We dance, we pray, we bargain, and when that doesn't work and Mother Nature isn't on our side, we put our faith and trust in our snowmaking team. 

"Always be prepared" is the mantra of Boyne Highlands Snowmaking Manager, John Lokker. Lokker shares with staff during a pre season meeting that snowmaking is not for everyone. This is a physically demanding job that requires a person who enjoys mechanics and thrives in inclement weather, he explains. They work at all hours of the night, in frigid temperatures and gusting winds, and sometimes operating heavy machinery with little to no visibility. Lokker explains, "These guys sacrifice a lot during the early part of Snowmaking season. They are working 12-hour shifts; they're on-call if temperatures aren't right, it's crazy. But I love it!"   

The Snowmaking Process  

In places such as Northern Michigan where weather isn't always on our side, snowmaking is essential. Snowmaking supplements natural snow, gets trails and terrain open sooner in the early part of the season, and can help maintain overall hill quality.  But how is snow made? Snow is made by combining water and air, which is compressed and pressurized through hoses, and forcing the two together. Although that sounds like a simple process, combining air and water, making snow requires a level of complexity that's hard to imagine for most. Manmade snow is ice crystals; which, in a sense, are snowflakes. Making snow (or ice crystals) requires a lower temperature than what is needed just for water to freeze. A temperature of 28 or lower is necessary. Colder obviously being better.  

Temperature AND Humidity Matter  

However, it's not just the temperature that matters. The humidity also plays a role in the snowmaking process. The relationship between temperature and humidity is called wet bulb temperature and is the most critical indicator for snowmaking.  As the temperature and humidity drop, the amount of snow made per hour goes up. In order to create snow, water has to be pumped up from a pond or reservoir, and through the snow guns. The Boyne Low-E fan gun uses electricity, pushing water into the air, a bit like a spay bottle. Which blasts the liquid into smaller particles that freeze before they hit the ground.  

Snow Guns Galore  

Like most resorts that do not rely solely on natural snow, Boyne Highlands' snowmaking system covers a majority of its acreage, so the snowmakers have a lot of ground to cover during a single shift. Every 100 feet or so there are water and air hydrants on the side of the slopes that then attach to the snow guns. The snowmakers have to attach and adjust the pressure of each gun manually, and make sure it is blowing correctly for the conditions. They then have to position the gun properly. The guns have to be watched constantly and readjusted as the temperature and conditions change. Did we mention that many of the guns are located on top of towers?  

A Year-Round Job  

For Lokker and other members of the team this is a year-round job. During the summer months, snowmakers are fixing leaks in the system and patching blown out ditches. Countless holes are dug and old pipe is patched.  However, despite the grueling work and long days and nights, solidarity among snowmakers runs deep. "I'm fortunate to work with guys who have been doing this for a long time," Lokker says. "They know what they are doing and I trust them. We have a great team working on the hill." Boyne Highlands has been fortunate this year; opening the earliest it has in over two decades. While we have had a few nice snowfalls, we could not have done it without the hard work and dedication of our snow making team. Go out and thank a snowmaker! 

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