Another pressure test today. As of NOON they've had only one minor leak. Still more testing to be done and time will tell (we're keeping our fingers crossed).
If you're really interested and want to learn more about the Snowmaking System at Kincaid, grab a beverage, get comfortable and read on. This article will be published in the next Nordic Skier, but we thought we'd give our faithful blog readers a sneak peak. Enjoy! By the way, the Groomers wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
A Lesson in Patience
“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”
― Paulo Coelho
― Paulo Coelho
“The hardest thing for any of our staff to do is to wait, yet it is also the most essential of all skills. One cannot work directly against the nature of weather. We can only redirect the energy and sometimes trick it a little for the benefit of better skiing.” - Ben Powell, NSAA Director of Operations
Better skiing? How could it possibly get any better? It could only get better by having the ability to make our own snow! Out at Kincaid Park, they are preparing to do just that by making the final adjustments to the newly installed Snowmaking System. The Kincaid Project Group (KPG) has been the motivation and driving force behind this monumental undertaking. Through forward thinking, their mission is to “create world-class, year-round recreational opportunities at Kincaid Park for the benefit of Anchorage and the greater Alaskan community.” For more information about The Kincaid Project Group, please visit their website at www.kincaidproject.org.
Here’s a brief historical timeline of the Snowmaking system. The first stage of this project began in October of 2005 with a water system study. Three years later in May of 2008, two wells were drilled. In November of 2012 the construction of the system was completed and Techno Alpin, the international snowmaking experts who designed the system, deployed the snow guns and lances and tested the operation of the entire setup. Two main problems were revealed; a leak in the main water distribution line and sand and silt from the wells clogged the filters in the snow guns and lances. From that point until December 2013, several meetings, reviews, trainings, tests and repairs took place and resulted in the development of a final “punch list” to include all known deficiencies and issues of concern. One more leak was added to that list in February of 2014 when the NSAA Operations staff was attempting to manufacture snow for an upcoming event. This past fall, the contractor fixed the leak and resolved the remainder of the issues. However recently, a final pressure test of the system proved that of the 5 valves installed, 2 were leaking and one wasn’t functioning properly. Since this test, the contractor has ordered new parts and has been working diligently to correct the issues. Once the system is proven, the city will accept it and NSAA will operate it.
When will NSAA make snow?
We will begin to make snow when the conditions are favorable. Now, “favorable conditions” aren’t just about the temperatures being cold enough. Other factors such as humidity and wind must also be considered. We’ll be setting our parameters according to this really cool chart showing the variable snow making conditions. It’s good to note that even though the temperature may be cold enough, the level of humidity determines the condition of the snow. Higher humidity produces wet, sloppy snow which makes for adverse skiing. Making snow under these conditions is an irresponsible use of water, electricity, man power and your money.
The system itself, tailored to our specifications, is fully automated. The Operations Bunker is where the magic begins (we’ve known that for years). Inside, the main snow making computer controls and communicates with all the stationary lances and mobile fan guns. The fan guns are equipped with their own weather stations that monitor the temperature and humidity. Once the NSAA Snow Making Operator (Craig) programs the parameters for optimal snowmaking, the fan guns will adjust themselves accordingly and make snow. How cool is that? We presume there will be a great deal of coddling and hand holding in the beginning, but hope that this system will behave.
What will the process for making snow look like?
The first step in the snow making plan is to create a surface of snow in the Operations Bunker yard with the fan gun. By doing so, the groomers will keep the snow free from dirt, otherwise turned up by the snow cats, during the entire process. They’ll make and spread snow from this point out. Using both the stationary snow lances placed throughout the system and mobile fan guns, they’ll continue on the loop around the Play Hill and head to the Stadium. Once there, they’ll use 2 fan guns to get across the Stadium and blow snow into the Lekisch tunnel. After the tunnel is filled, they’ll make their way around the Biathlon range, using both lances and fan guns, and head back to the Lower tunnel. At this point, 2 kilometers of trail will have snow. If Mother Nature still hasn’t produced the real stuff by this time, they’ll make snow around the Soccer field and the Chalet Sledding Hill, which will complete the 3 km loop.
The groomers will make, mound, push and spread snow as they go throughout the loop and follow up with grooming. The goal is to produce 6-8” of base allowing for diagonal tracks to be set. This entire process should take up to 3 weeks to complete from start to finish and the trails will be closed to all traffic during snowmaking. The reason it may take so long is due to restricted water volume. Only a few lances and fan guns can run at a time in each section. Optimally, the system should have produced more water, but because of sediment filters in the wells we receive only half as much water as we had hoped.
With the addition of this tool, we’ll not only compensate for Nature’s shortcomings by offering skiers a longer season, but it will also improve reliability and add consistency. The benefits to serious skiers are clear, and we hope to entice even more local people to get outside and give Nordic skiing a try. NSAA is optimistic and hopeful that the snow making system performs well and that we can add it to our bag of tricks to provide an even better skiing opportunity for all Alaskans.