WILMINGTON- Mount Snow’s new West Lake snowmaking reservoir has been officially certified by a Vermont engineer, and resort officials began filling the 120-million-gallon lake on Tuesday.
Although the system includes an inflatable dam to draw water directly from Cold Brook, Mount Snow spokesperson Jamie Storrs said the initial gallonage is being pumped out of Snow Lake. “We’re running the system backward to fill as much of West Lake as we can between now and the beginning of winter snowmaking,” Storrs said. “We’re confident we’ll have 120 million gallons by then.”
Storrs says rain and snowmelt that has been accumulating since spring has already filled the reservoir with about 40 million gallons. During normal usage, the reservoir will be filled by an inflatable dam that can be brought into use when the water in Cold Brook reaches a certain level. Storrs says the system allows Mount Snow to withdraw water at times when it won’t endanger stream ecology.
The West Lake Project, which is nearing completion, fulfills Mount Snow’s decades-long search for a large source of snowmaking water. In the past, the ski resort has proposed a number of solutions, including the withdrawal of water from Harriman Reservoir, Somerset Reservoir, and the constriction of snowmaking impoundments from the Howe Farm in Wilmington to locations along the Haystack/Mount Snow ridgeline.
Storrs says work on the West Lake pumphouse is nearing completion, the installation of pumps at Carinthia is underway, and construction of a pumphouse at the main base area has just gotten underway.
The result of the $30 million snowmaking upgrade will be immediately evident to skiers this year, especially to those who come to Mount Snow early in the season. “Mount Snow now has the most powerful snowmaking sytem in the East,” Storrs says. “The new system will give us water volume and pressure we’ve never seen at the summit and allow us to expand snowmaking in Sunbrook and the North Face, with the goal of eventually providing 100% snowmaking coverage.”
The previous system had a capacity to pump about 6,000 gallons per minute, Storrs says, and the new system nearly doubles that to 11,800 gallons per minute. Thanks to the increased capacity, ski season will open with more trails than in the past, with additional trails opening sooner than usual. “Normally we open with a couple of trails that have coverage, this year we’ll open with two or three times more. It also means we’ll be able to bounce back more rapidly from melting events. As soon as the temperatures drop back down again, we’ll have the snowmaking capacity to reset and resurface the mountain in 24 hours.”
Eventually, Snow Lake, the resort’s original snowmaking water source built by Mount Snow founder Walt Schoenknecht, will be taken offline and returned to a natural state.
“Before Walt built the dam that’s now South Access Road, it was just a stream and a meadow,” Storrs said. “We’re going to return it to its natural state, which may be kind of a shock at first, but we think it’s going to be a vast improvement to that area.
Storr says there are over 100 other projects underway at Mount Snow this year, including upgrades at the Grand Summit Spa and the deck at Cuzzins.
Resort officials have also started work on their next major project, the new Carinthia Base Lodge. “We’ve just started pouring concrete for the new lodge, but that won’t be open until the following season,” Storrs says.