Snowmaking at Tahoe Donner
We are very excited to announce the addition of a snowmaking system at Tahoe Donner Downhill. We are the first resort in the United States to use the superior technology known as silent polecats. Snowmaking has been installed at the Learning Center and Snowbird Chairlift, for operation beginning with the 2015-2016 ski season.
In addition to snowmaking, recently we installed a new 700 square-foot yurt, which will allow us to provide a slopeside warm area for lessons with a large sundeck. We also recently built a new trail, meandering through the trees, called “Leary’s Laugh,” in honor of a longtime Tahoe Donner employee and friend who passed away recently. See our events schedule for fun races, family events and holiday happenings. Check out our deals tab or follow us on facebook and twitter.
Click here for full details of snowmaking at Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area.
After consideration and review of past winter seasons, Tahoe Donner aims to be the first U.S. ski area to utilize the Silent PoleCat snowmaking machines at our Downhill Ski area, providing dampened sound levels and reduced water and energy consumption. These new machines are significantly quieter than traditional snowmaking systems, and combined with a state of the art cooling tower, the lower water temperatures provide greater efficiency and allows for shorter operating times. With the continued objective to be, “the best place to begin,” Tahoe Donner’s beginner terrain was selected for this capital improvement project, with an official completion date soon to be announced. The installation of snowmaking will help insure that we can provide a quality and consistent experience for our market niche of beginners and families. Infrastructure is underway now, with water and power being installed to support the new pump house/
With recent Planning Commission approvals and Use-Permit Amendment for our snowmaking activities at TDA Downhill Ski Area, we are now full-speed-ahead with snowmaking installation planning at Learning Center and Snowbird Chairlift, for anticipated snowmaking operations to commence in late 2015.
Board Approves Budget to Proceed with Snowmaking Project
On Friday, March 27, the board of directors approved a budget for 2015 of $750,000 to proceed with the snowmaking project, with additional funds allocated in 2016. The recommendation, based on the information staff has at this time, is to move forward with project infrastructure, including a cooling tower for 2015, and eventually install 7 Silent Polecat (or equivalent) guns. A cooling tower lowers the temperature of the water before it reaches the snow guns, making for a more efficient system and ultimately translating to fewer operating hours to enough snow to open Snowbird lift and the learning areas. See more about the snowmaking project, including data, reports, links, videos, and more.
Finance Committee Endorses Snowmaking
The Finance Committee met to discuss snowmaking at Tahoe Donner Downhill on March 12. After a thorough discussion that included a cost-benefit analysis, the Finance Committee voted unanimously, 6-0, to affirmatively endorse and recommend that the board of directors approve the snowmaking project at their March 27 meeting, so that we can have this capability in place as insurance for the 2015-16 ski season. Read the meeting overview.
Snowmaking Project Analyzed
As you are aware, Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area services have been severely limited by a lack of natural snowfall for the last few years. For most ski areas in the North Tahoe/Truckee area, the answer to this is to make artificial snow. As a result of recent winter weather trends, Tahoe Donner Association has evaluated the feasibility of this solution for the beginner area of the Downhill Ski Area. Known as “the best place to begin,” we give four times as many lessons per visit than the average ski area in the U.S. and Tahoe Donner’s beginner terrain is considered the best location for this improvement project.
Over the past few seasons, the General Plan Committee and Downhill Ski Area subgroup have analyzed the financial and service impacts of poor snow conditions on our members, guests and the public. After a detailed investigation of the availability of power and water, the cost of installation and operation, and the sound level of the equipment, the subgroup presented a report to the boards of directors for both Tahoe Donner Association and Tahoe Donner Ski Bowl Condominium Association. With continued support, the TDA board has recently asked staff to move forward with the concept of installing snowmaking on the Snowbird Run area.
The detailed investigation uncovered several important facts, including:
- In the past, snowmaking machines have been louder and less efficient than today’s models. Modern machines are much quieter and more efficient while producing a constant frequency fan noise – similar to a normal conversation, and less than a grooming machine.
- Utility and operational costs of snowmaking are minor compared to revenues generated when the ski area is operating.
- Studies show sufficient water supply and ample reserves for these snowmaking activities. For more information on water availability, contact the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.
- The benefit of providing continuity in the ski area operation is important to the service expectations of our membership and financial well-being of the association.
Sound Demonstration and Town Hall Meeting
To illustrate the sound levels heard from snowmaking equipment, Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area held a snowmaking sound demonstration on Feb. 14-15. Tahoe Donner staff also presented the entire snowmaking report at a Town Hall Meeting on February 20. Information presented at this meeting is listed below.
Member input is encouraged. Please email the General Plan Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful Links and Additional Information
- A PDF of the town hall presentation and financial analysis of snowmaking (slides)
- A PDF copy of the TD News snowmaking article February 2015, March 2015 and April 2015
- Martis Valley Water Management Plan
- NOAA report on the drought or download the PDF report
- New York Times video on how snowmaking works
- Finance Committee meeting overview from March 12 meeting
- Video of sound measurements from Lansing, MI snow park. Watch: