Using Reclaimed Wastewater for Snowmaking
I have been participating in snow sports all my life. My family and I regularly ski at the Snowbowl. This ski resort is only 3 hours by car from my home, so it is the easiest ski area for my family to utilize. The SnowBowl just started using chemically treated wastewater to make artificial snow for its slopes. They are doing this to make up for irregular snowfall and growing water shortages in the state. There has been a 10 year legal battle between the 13 Native American tribes, 10 individuals and the Forest Service and this resort. The Native American groups are concerned that the wastewater snow will damage the wild life and any individuals that are exposed to it. There is also public concern over the effects of chemically treated wastewater. Many are worried that there will be harmful side effects to the people and the environment exposed to this wastewater snow, but with the appropriate state and federal regulations, using reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking makes sense for the environment, skiers and resort owners.
The four main reasons for using reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking are to provide a consistent ski season, safe trails, improved skiing conditions and help support the local economy. The existing conditions were unreliable due to annual snowfall, which has led to erratic operating seasons and unpredictable annual visitation by skiers. This has created unstable employment and affected local winter tourism at the Snowbowl and surrounding area.
The installation and operation of reclaimed wastewater snowmaking will provide a reliable and consistent operating season, and help to stabilize Snowbowl resort, increase local employment levels, and increase winter tourism within the community. With the use of reclaimed snowmaking “One Forest Service estimate puts Snowbowl’s visits by skiers and snowboarders increasing by more than 60 percent in future years”(Cole, 2012). There have been estimates that the revenue alone would increase by more than $3 million annually as compared to previous years without the use of the reclaimed water. It is also thought that snowmaking at Snowbowl will increase the number of days open by a third from 80 to 120 days. This would allow the local economy a longer winter season with increased opportunities to enhance revenue and provide a consistent operating season.
Without the use of reclaimed snow, many trails at the Snowbowl were inadequately sized to accommodate the number of skiers wanting to ski. The lack of trail options caused extremely high skier density on the slopes especially on peak days. This often created many safety issues with overcrowded ski runs. Skiers could become injured by running into other skiers. The overcrowding slopes cause dangerous trail conditions. Skiers were often forced to ski on ice or trails with rocks protruding. By using reclaimed water for snowmaking, the Snowbowl can improve the quality and quantity of snow on all their trails. Opening more trails will provide more options for skiers and less crowded slopes with enhanced slope conditions. This will significantly improve safety throughout the resort.
Many snow resorts had a dreadful season last year, so this year the resorts are determined not to let this happen again by making snow. Ski resorts all across the country are investing heavily in snowmaking. It is estimated that New England ski resorts will be spending at least $15 million in snowmaking improvements this year. “The good news for resort operators is that every dollar spent on snowmaking technology today brings savings through more efficient use of resources”(Thornton, 2012). One resort operator explained that he would save 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel by improving their snowmaking equipment. Making snow is now cheaper and easier on the environment. In Northern Arizona, using reclaimed water for snowmaking is the