LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — No real snow in the forecast for this Martin Luther King Jr. Day is no problem at Montage Mountain Ski Resort.
"There's not a cloud in the sky today, but you see the ominous cloud around the mountain from (Interstate) 81. I love to see that. It just means it's all coming right back down and landing right where we need it," said Tyler Crawford, Montage Mountain's director of resort relations.
That is because every one of the nearly 200 snow guns at Montage have been working all holiday weekend long, making snow for what is considered the most important day of the ski season — Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
A snow gun is like a giant pressure washer. It compresses water pumped from a nearby reservoir on the mountain.
"We push it through this snow gun. It breaks apart the water into tiny, tiny beads, throws it up in the air, and then it falls. Very simple at that level," Crawford said.
But the weather plays a huge role in snowmaking, which makes the process a bit more complicated. You can make it right at 32 degrees, but because of humidity, it should actually be a few degrees colder than freezing. That's why this past weekend was perfect for snowmaking.
"Here in Pennsylvania, we know the humidity is around 60 to 80 percent, sometimes even up to 100 percent, which brings that temperature down into the 27-to-28-degree range that we really like making snow."
Another weather factor to consider is the wind. You can still make snow even when it's really windy. But the wind speed and direction matter.
"The team is walking around constantly, adjusting the guns, turning everything to make sure that we play into the wind. So, we might be able to make snow from one gun and have it sail across the resort and have it land in a different area, and the crazy thing is tomorrow, it might be a completely different strategy," Crawford said.
This is why snowmaking is considered a science. The staff at Montage Mountain say as long as the weather is right, they will be making snow until the spring.
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