Is this Microphone Working? Readers Emails shared today.

Thump, thump, thump.

Is anyone out there? Hello. Anyone?

Just kidding. It’s just beginning to feel that way now that we’re seeing our daily visitor traffic dip below the 5000 mark for the first time since September. However, since there are at least 4900 hearty souls out there still coming here to read a little sumpin’-sumpin’ I guess will see what we can do 😉

I was looking at the stats on the webcams on Thursday and we saw more visitor traffic on yesterday than we did on and – combined. So I guess it’s safe to say we’re experiencing the end of the season blues around here. It happens every season, but I think perhaps a little more so this year since we experienced such a great season in most every sense of the word.


A couple of readers emailed me about the snowmaking article on Thursday. Thanks for those. Janette Ard from Washington, D.C. wrote, "I loved your story about the birth of snowmaking machines today. That’s the kind of stuff that I like reading about the most. It made me go to the library today and look up more on the subject and I thought you’d like to perhaps share some of my findings with your audience. Feel free to do so and thanks for giving me something to do today."

You’re welcome Janette. People still go to the LIBRARY??? Wow! Now you told ME something I didn’t know. That’s what we do around here. We give people something to do. (At least 4900 or so of you on Thursday!)

Janette shared:

The First Machine Made Snow was indeed what you wrote about. (What? You thought I made it up!?!?!)

In a low temperature laboratory in Canada, the effects of rime icing on the intake of a jet engine was being studied. Lead by a Dr. Ray Ringer, the researchers in an effort to reproduce natural conditions, were spraying water into the air just before the engine intake in a wind tunnel. They did not create any rime ice but they did make snow and they had to regularly shut down the engine and the wind tunnel to shovel out the snow. Uninterested in inventing a snowmaking machine, no patents were filed by the laboratory researchers. The research published in scientific journals, was made prior to any other claim to snowmaking technology.

Wayne Pierce

Wayne Pierce was in the ski manufacturing business along with his two partners, Art Hunt and Dave Richey. The Tey Manufacturing Company of Milford, Connecticut was formed in 1947. They sold a new ski design – the ALU-60 was an aluminum ski with a hollow interior and three layers of metal bonded together. In 1949, the company was hit hard by a slump in ski sales, the result of dry snowless winter.

"I know how to make snow!" were the words spoken by inventor/engineer, Wayne Pierce, on March 14, 1950. Pierce came to work on that March morning, with an idea that if you could blow droplets of water through freezing air, the water would then turn into frozen hexagonal crystals, aka snowflakes. Using a paint spray compressor, nozzle and some garden hose, Pierce and his partners created a machine that created snow. The company was granted a basic-process patent and installed a few of their snowmaking machines, but they did not take their snowmaking business too far. In 1956, the three partners sold their company and patent rights to the Emhart Corporation.

US Patent 2676471 issued April 1954

Joseph Tropeano

Joe Tropeano, the owner of the Larchmont Irrigation Company of Boston Mass, had once worked with the Tey Manufacturing Company helping them with the installation snowmaking machines. Tropeano later bought the Tey patent and commenced to make and develop snowmaking equipment.

In the 60’s, Tropeano and Larchmont started to sue other makers of snowmaking machinery. The Tey patent was then contested and overthrown on the basis on the Canadian research, which had proceeded the patent granted to Wayne Pierce.

Fan Snowmakers

In 1958, Alden Hanson filed a patent for a new type of snowmaking machine, the fan snowmaker. The earlier Tey patent was a compressed air and water machine, which had some drawbacks, noise, energy demands, etc. In 1961, Hanson was issued a patent for the use of a fan, particulate water and the optional use of a nucleating agent (dirt particles). Hanson patent is considered the pioneer patent for all fan snowmaking machines. Hanson also developed the Hanson ski boot and the Flofit for the Lange ski boot.

U.S. Patent #2,968,164 issued January 1961

On June 11, 1969, inventors Erikson, Wollin, and Zaunier (Lamont Labs, Columbia University)) filed a patent (which became know as the Wollin patent). It was for a specially developed rotating fan blade that was impacted with water from the rear, resulting in mechanically atomized water leaving the front which froze and became snow. To prevent any patent infringement dispute with the Hanson patent, the manufacturers of the snowmaking machine based on the Wollin patent, Snow Machines International (SMI) founded by Bill Gilbert who had aided the Lamont researchers, signed licensing agreements with both the Hanson and Wollin patent holders.

U.S. Patent #3610527 issued October 1971

As part of the licensing agreement with Hanson, SMI was subject to inspection by a Hanson representative. The representative turned out to be Jim VanderKelen, who had been the patent attorney for the Hanson patent. In the fall of 1974, Bill Gilbert who no longer wished to develop snowmaking technology further, sold 50 percent of Snow Machines International to Jim VanderKelen. A year later VanderKelen bought the other 50 percent and renamed the company Snow Machines Incorporated (SMI).

In 1974, a patent was filed for the Boyne Snowmaker – a ducted fan which isolated the nucleator to the outside of the duct and away from the bulk water nozzles, which were positioned above the centerline and on the downstream edge of the duct. SMI was the licensed manufacturers of the Boyne Snowmaker.

In 1978, Bill Riskey and Jim VanderKelen filed a patent later called the Lake Michigan Nucleator – by surrounding the existing nucleator (which required a small amount of air and water) with a water jacket the Lake Michigan Nucleator had none of the freezing problem earlier fan snowmakers sometimes had.

In 1992, Jim VanderKelen received a patent for his Silent Storm Snowmaker – a multiple speed fan and a shape of a new style propeller blade.

VanderKelen Patents:

US05167367 12/01/1992 Snowmaking apparatus and methods
US04214700 07/29/1980 Method and apparatus for making snow for ski slopes and the like
US04202496 05/13/1980 Snow making system

*Special thanks to Dennise at "Snow Machines Inc.", George Jennings at Woomera Snow Guns Pty Ltd Steve Kemp of Snowtech_Services and Alf Bucceri of Bucceri Snow. Much of the content came from a story written by Mary Bellis.

The information on fan snowmakers was taken from an original article written by Jim VanderKelen, founder of Snow Machines Inc. Provided by Snow Machines Inc.

Well…thank you Janette. I think I now know more about the snowmaking machine than I ever though I would.


I was emailing back and forth will Snowshoe’s President/COO Bill Rock this week and he shared this pretty cool story from this week. He wrote, "I ran into a family from Florida last week who were having a great time. They were already talking about a summer trip and return trip next winter. When I asked them how they heard about us, they said "".  Apparently they had planned a trip to (another resort) …and that converted to a weekend only operating model, so they went to your site, looked at the resort links and chose us. So, now we have a lifetime customer! Good stuff… Bill."

Yes that is Bill and thanks for sharing that. I’d like to think that we do that a lot around here! Hopefully we prompt a whole lot of first timers to all of our very cool ski areas of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. I know I’ve personally received more emails this season from people who have skied for the first time at Wisp, Canaan, Timberline, Massanutten, Wintergreen, Snowshoe, Sugar, Beech and Cataloochee. I’d bet we sent a ton of first timers to the rest as well.

Another reader (don’t have their name, sorry) wrote this from Thursday, "I read your story about snowmaking today and decided to do some online about that and other things to do with skiing in the south. I figured I’d share some helpful news to you and your site. But on just about every search I did I kept finding your webpage ranked at the top. Thought you’d want to know that. Keep up the good work and please don’t stop your dailies right when the slopes close this year like you’ve done like last year and the last few years."

Welllll…first of all thanks for trying to help us with story content and I’m assuming by "…decided to do some online about…" you meant online searches. It’s funny because a lot of times you guys who email us DO provide the catalyst for what I write about. That’s always helpful so keep writing. Often we I go and research certain subjects about the ski area, snowmaking, GMs, etc…I constantly run into our our previous posts. That’s always cool and thanks for noticing.

By the way we have a whole lot more than just a "webpage". We have thousands of web pages that come up on Google, Yahoo, MSN and Bing.  As far as our abrupt article/story stoppage each season I have received that comment more than a few times in the past. I know what you mean. It’s kind of like you’re talking for 150+ days with a friend and all of sudden they disappear for several months. The truth is though that there’s not much to write about once the resorts close and in truth I have a real job and there are some people that think I can do it much better when I don’t spend time chatting with you guys and gals around this "virtual watercooler".

So look for our last post on Monday, April 12th for a while. We’ll try to post some sort of summary of the season as we gather any valuable information that we can share. Then look for a few announcements here and there over the summer and we’ll do it all over again beginning in October. We’ve got some great plans for next season to up our product even more and we’ve got some things that we’d LOVE to do if we kind find the time, resources, staff and funding to do. However, look for an abrupt "work stoppage" from you-know-who on or about April 12th.

Be sure to check the SNOW REPORT for all of the trails and resort openings. This weekend will be a little wet at times but it looks like Saturday will be the primo day to enjoy the slopes. Have fun if you’re headed to the mountains.

We’re not doing a tour today…but I thought since we’re ALWAYS preaching about how great communication is key to informing our visitors…that we’d share what I personally think is the epitome of great communication. Check out this post from Snowshoe’s Laura Parquette this morning:

"We’re in a holding pattern this morning while we wait to see what Mother Nature has in store for us. The forecast is calling for snow, with up to 3" of accumulation possible. So far this morning we have a steady rain falling, but no signs of flakes. We’ll wait and see if the temperature falls enough to get that snow. Otherwise, it may just be one of those days where we look forward to tomorrow. Saturday should be a beautiful day on the mountain, with sunny skies and milder temperatures. It could be extra gorgeous if we have a fresh coating of snow on the slopes, but only time will tell. Due to the mild temps and rain overnight, only the Terrain Park and our green slopes were groomed. With cold air moving in, we should be able to groom everything overnight tonight and start the weekend off with a perfect corduroy surface. If this snow materializes, it may also help us get a few of our closed slopes reopened. But rain won’t help our cause there, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed. We have just over a week left in the season, and we’re hoping Mother Nature cooperates in order to provide the best conditions possible. We’re holding up our end of the bargain by offering some great deals–including FREE lift tickets with any 2+ night stay, March 28th-April 5th, and $20 lift tickets for anyone showing proof of a 09-10 season pass from any other mountain. And Snowshoe season passes for 2010-11 are now on sale. By purchasing before April 30th you’ll save up to 25% and ski for free for the remainder of this season. Season passes are now available online, or by calling 877-441-4386. Keep your fingers crossed today and we hope to see you on the mountain for another gorgeous weekend!"

DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT? Great job Laura. I can’t wait to see the day that every resort posts THAT kind of insight for their visitors every day. You can’t ask for a more informative input than that.

That’s it for today…enjoy your Friday and the weekend ahead.

We’re on day 119 and there are 18 more days of opportunities to enjoy the snow for the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season!

Go enjoy the snow! Check out the Snow Report at  and please send us your favorite ski photos, ski videos, trip reports and comments to [email protected]