Early start for the snow­mak­ers

Mt Hotham Falls Creek - - FRONT PAGE - By BRAD WOR­RALL

WHILE the Queen’s Birth­day week­end is the of­fi­cial launch of the ski sea­son – for one group of hardy souls the win­ter started in earnest more than two weeks ago.

The Falls Creek snow­mak­ing crew went on standby in late May.

Early sea­son flur­ries had started to freeze the ground, now it was a mat­ter of get­ting the tem­per­a­ture and most im­por­tantly the hu­mid­ity right to flick the switch on the man-made snow.

On a good night, with ready ac­cess to the huge wa­ter sup­ply in Rocky Val­ley Lake the Falls Creek sys­tem can turn 11 mil­lion litres of wa­ter into more than dou­ble that in cu­bic me­tres of snow.

We caught up with moun­tain op­er­a­tions man­ager Karl Nowa- kowski late last month.

“The snow­mak­ing team is on the ground and start­ing pro­duc­tion tonight,” he said.

“Ini­tially we will be pump­ing out the snow and stack­ing it in mounds so that a cou­ple of days be­fore open­ing week­end and hope­fully with the ben­e­fit of a help­ing hand from Mother Na­ture we can push it out onto the slopes.

“We will be look­ing at those runs at the top of Cloud 9 – then Main Street, Drovers and Wom­bats Ram­ble.

“The weather has al­ready started to turn – we have had a few dust­ings and the ground has gone from soft and squishy to hard un­der foot, al­most frozen.”

Nowakowski, in his sec­ond year on the moun­tain, said Falls Creek was blessed with an ex­pe­ri­enced and ded­i­cated snow­mak­ing team.

“It’s tough work – they are out there late at night, of­ten bat­tling the el­e­ments and more of­ten than not work­ing alone,” he said. “They also know their craft. “Snow­mak­ing is as de­pen­dent on the hu­mid­ity as much as it is on the tem­per­a­ture, per­haps more so – even with the tem­per­a­ture above zero they can make snow if the hu­mid­ity is low.

“Falls Creek is also blessed to have ac­cess to a huge body of wa­ter in Rocky Val­ley Lake that other re­sorts sim­ply don’t have.

“The re­sort is also for­tu­nate to have some of the best groomers in the coun­try.

“They take great pride in set­ting up that cor­duroy fin­ish on the snow for vis­i­tors and that comes through ex­per­tise and pride in their work.”

PHOTO: KARL GRAY

MOUN­TAIN MADE: Mt Hotham’s op­er­a­tions man­ager Len Do­bell gives the pow­er­ful Tech­noAlpin snow­guns the thumbs up.

A $4.4 mil­lion ex­pan­sion of Mt Hotham’s snow­mak­ing has al­ready sprung to life.

The newly-in­stalled, fully-au­to­mated Tech­noAlpin snow­guns be­gan pump­ing out snow onto Heav­enly Val­ley al­most a fort­night ago.

The ma­jor sum­mer project for the Mt Hotham Ski­ing Com­pany will see six new guns in Heav­enly Val­ley area and a fur­ther 12 guns across the sys­tem.

And while plans for a fur­ther 12 snow can­nons on The Sum­mit won’t hap­pen un­til next sum­mer, those guns will be re­de­ployed across the re­sort this win­ter.

The new snow­mak­ing equip­ment will cover an ad­di­tional 33ha in the re­sort – an in­crease of al­most 40 per cent.

It means an ad­di­tional 288,000 litres of wa­ter can be turned into snow each hour.

That equates to some 600 cu­bic me­tres, or about 25 dump trucks, of snow.

Mt Hotham ski­ing Com­pany gen­eral man­ager Belinda Trem­bath, hailed it as a great day for Hotham skiers and snow­board­ers.

“For many peo­ple, Heav­enly Val­ley is the heart of Mt Hotham,” she said.

“This whole area is now go­ing to be ‘snow sure’ from much ear­lier in the sea­son.

“We’ll be able to build a base here for all the nat­u­ral and moun­tain-made snow to come this sea­son, which should en­sure the great ter­rain in this area skis beau­ti­fully right through to the end of the sea­son in late Septem­ber. “Per­haps even be­yond. “The guys here have al­ready started re­fer­ring to this area as the Hotham Glacier.”

Ms Trem­bath said the end prod­uct was the re­sult of a huge sum­mer.

“Our Moun­tain Op­er­a­tions team has done a huge amount of work over sum­mer to get us to this point,” she said.

“We’ve care­fully in­stalled more than a kilo­me­tre of wa­ter mains, six new snow­mak­ing out­lets, a new pump in our main pump­ing house, and we are rolling out 18 mas­sive new snow can­nons across the sys­tem.”

“The ex­panded snow­mak­ing in Heav­enly Val­ley is part of the fi­nal stage of a snow­mak­ing mas­ter plan we be­gan in 1998.

“Now we only have The Sum­mit area to go, where we’ll be putting in twelve ad­di­tional snow can­nons ahead of next sea­son.”

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