The science of snowmaking has come a long way from its early days some 61 years ago but snowmaking at Cataloochee has always been on the cutting edge even from its very beginnings when Tom and Judy Alexander explored snowmaking and skiing as an opportunity for winter employment for their ranch hands. Now we constantly upgrade equipment and water capacity to the point where all that’s needed is one cold night to go from bare ground to skiing.
Snowmaking relies on Mother Nature just the same as natural snowfall. Temperature and humidity both determine if conditions are right to make snow and although a damp 30 degrees may not be suitable for snowmaking, a dry 34 degrees may permit snow formation.
Cataloochee employs two types of snowmaking guns. The first uses water and compressed air and extreme pressure sprays a ultra-fine mist into the air where the water droplets freeze and turn to snow before it settles on the ground. The second type is what most associate with snow making which are fan guns. These units are funnel in shape and consist of a large jet like fan and rows of water nozzles around the rim that inject water into the air flow. These machines can make snow at the rate of up to 80 gallons of water a minute and over a distance of 50 yards.