Thursday, December 13, 2007

Making snow

Night before last I got to play Mother Nature. At Chester Bowl, the tiny little in-town downhill ski area in Duluth, I volunteered for the first shift on the snow gun. It was 11 degrees, apparently great snowmaking weather.

As soon as the chairlift stopped and the last of the little snowboard dudes made it down the hill, we hiked up the hill and set it all up. Big serious power cord ran down the hill to one of the lift poles. Fire hose went across the hill to a water pipe. The pump started up, the water flowed, I threw the valve and voila, snow!

In one machine, in one set up of pipes and power, all those little miracles that add up to snowfall had been captured and focused. Instead of a warm air mass bringing Gulf of Mexico moisture, it was the a pipe and a pump pulling water from Chester Creek. Instead of ...well... some chemical-physical process in the upper atmosphere, it was the "moleculizer" in the snow gun.

On one of my hourly trips up the hill to check on the machine, I made a point of walking up into the snow, to feel it on the breeze and under my feet as I'd experienced so many real snowfalls before. It felt okay.

And for all that machinery, all that work, it was as much snow as a good lake-effect storm would bring. Only it was in a tiny area, half the size of our little backyard.

Which, to me, makes the power and breadth of a real storm that much more impressive. Instead of just a few hundred square feet. a good storm dumps over hundreds of square miles.

But it was pretty cool to be part of it, for a bit.

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