Snowmaking is vital to the success of ski areas around the country and Sipapu has made significant upgrades and additions to its system in the last ten years. Our elevation, low humidity in the Southwest and cold temperatures all contribute to efficient snowmaking.
The Sipapu 20-gun fleet currently consists of a mix of fan guns and fanless machines called Lances. Currently, the fleet includes 18 portable fan guns and two portable Lances. Portability means the snow guns can be placed in different parts of the mountain depending on the need for snow due to traffic, weather and special needs such as terrain parks. Fourteen of the TechnoAlpin snow guns operate automatically, with onboard weather stations and a computer control system that adjusts water flow according to changes in temperature and humidity to maximize snowmaking volume and quality in constantly changing weather conditions.
- Fourteen TechnoAlpin automatic fan guns, including five M-20s that, while older, are still considered one of the highest volume snow producers in the industry; five M-18s which are a super-reliable workhorse; one M-15, and three M-12s, which are equally able to work in tight spaces and yet still produce large volumes of snow.
- Two TechnoAlpin A-9 Lances, which appear as a long silver pole rising into the air. Without fans, these guns rely on the elevation of the snowmaking tip to make snow and are electrically very efficient.
- One TechnoAlpin manual M-18 fan gun and three manually operated Polecat fan guns round out the fleet.
- The system is supplied with water from the Rio Pueblo which runs through the base area between the lodge and ski slopes.
- With a return flow of 72 percent of the water withdrawn from the river returning to the river, this frozen “reservoir” of water created by Sipapu at a time of the year when other users have no need for the water (during the winter) ensures a reliable source of water in the Spring and Summer when other agricultural users need it most.
- Two pumps (200HP and 75HP) in the base area shop move water through three snowmaking pipes up the mountain. One line follows Lift #1 to the top of the mountain, another on Thumper and Butterfly supplies water to one of the busiest trails on the mountain and the trails used by the UNM and Santa Fe Ski Teams to practice and host races. The third line follows Badger’s Trail and Howdy on the western edge of the resort and will support snowmaking on additional terrain anticipated in that area in years to come. Two mid-mountain pumps near tower #6 of Lift #1 boost water pressure to the upper mountain.
- Snowmaking begins in mid-October as soon as temperatures get cold enough and usually concludes in mid-December before the Christmas holiday. A small amount of supplemental snow is made in January for the annual snow castle and a few additional “hot spots” to assure adequate coverage through the end of the ski season.
Even though Sipapu consistently gets 100-200 inches of snow annually, the ability to make snow ensures meeting announced opening dates even in years when natural snowfall is lower or begins later than normal. Man-made snow is more durable and makes a great base for natural snowfall and adds to the length of the season in the springtime.