The largest gets larger
Cozy snowmaking expansion underway
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
The largest computerized snowmaking system in the world is experiencing a
growth spurt this fall.
Valleys assistant mountain manager Peter Stearns explains how the mountains
snow guns attach to the air and water pipes, which supply them with snow making power.
Express photo by Willy Cook
The project, which will add 14 tower-style snow guns to Bald
Mountains Cozy ski run and add 15 acres to Sun Valleys snowmaking
capabilities, entails installing 79,000 pounds of steel pipe in 40-foot sections over the
bottom two-thirds of the run.
When the projects finished, all of the Warm Springs side of Baldy
except for Picabos Street, Upper Cozy and Upper Hemingway will have snowmaking.
On Friday morning, a crew worked to weld the pipe sections together at the
top of the run while a tractor dug a trench and pulled the lengthy sections of pipe down
the mountain into the eight-foot-deep furrow.
Two parallel pipes are being installed, one for air and one for water. The
computerized snow gun heads will mix the air and water in various combinations depending
on air temperatures and humidity.
"Were almost done with the very first phase of this
project," Sun Valley assistant mountain manager Peter Stearns said Friday as he
surveyed the construction site.
When the pipe is installed, Stearns said, crews will then clean and test
the lines, add conduit for the computerized snowmaking heads and, finally, construct
"valve shelters" out of which stand snow guns. Only then will the pipe trenches
The start of the snowmaking season is only a month and a half away, but
Stearns said finishing touches will be put on the snowmaking guns on Cozy by the time
temperatures permit manufacturing flakes for the approaching winter.
Typically, Stearns said, Sun Valley starts making snow on Baldy on Nov. 1,
but that depends on what Mother Nature allows. Sometimes, he said, he and his crews will
start earlier, and sometimes (last year, for example) temperatures dont cooperate
until late in the season.
"Last year was the worst Ive seen since Ive been
here," said Stearns, whos worked for Sun Valley for 20 years.
Last Thanksgiving, Baldy opened with only lower River Run open.
Considering that the snowmaking system can blanket 70 to 100 acres of ski runs with an
inch of snow in a night, having only Lower River Run open was, indeed, a disappointingly
poor start to last years season.
Stearns said he likes to try to guarantee that Upper College, Flying
Squirrel and Lower Warm Springs, at least, are open by Thanksgiving. Thats about 120
acres of terrain, he said.
The snow guns skiers and snowboarders pass as they cruise down Baldy are
only the facade of an enormous system that helps blanket the mountain every winter.
There are over 29 miles of pipe and at least 87 miles of wires beneath the
ground on Baldy, Stearns said, and there are five pump stations and three air plants in
five buildings around the mountain.
Water is drawn from a well at the River Run base and from Warm Springs
Creek at the Warm Springs base. The water is then cooled and pumped around the mountain to
various circuits of the snowmaking system.
Not including this years expansion on Cozy, Sun Valley has spent
over $12.8 million on its computerized snowmaking system since 1989.