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How Snowmaking Works

Snow is made of frozen water, right? So, the first and most important ingredient is water. Water is a funny little compound. Let’s say you have a cup of water and you want to freeze it. So you stick it in the freezer in and watch the water temperature drop. It gets down to 32 and stops…what is happening? Well, to turn 32 degree water into 32 degree ice takes 140 times as much energy as it takes to cool that water just one degree! Crazy huh? So when you make snow you have to have some extra help and it has to be a little bit colder than 32 degrees to make good snow. We usually start making snow at 27 degrees.


Compressed air is the other necessary ingredient for making snow. It serves two important purposes. First, compressed air is so full of energy and excited that when it meets a stream of water and is pushed through a special nozzle, the air actually blows the water apart into tiny particles. This process is called “atomizing.” Think of the mist your spray bottle makes. The mist droplets that compressed air makes are many times smaller than those your spray bottles create! Second, compressed air is that little bit of extra help that the water needs to freeze. As air is compressed it heats up. As it expands, it cools down. As the compressed air and the mist it creates leave the nozzle, the air expands and cools the water down very quickly so it freezes and forms…you guessed it, SNOW!


Snow that comes from a snowmaking machine is real snow. It’s white, frozen, cold, and yes it turns yellow if Rover is let loose in the yard. One benefit of “homemade” snow is that it lasts longer than natural snow. If you make 3” of snow and the next town over gets 3” of natural snow, your snow will be there long after theirs melts! Why? Think of snow when it falls to the ground as flakes. Flakes form during an ice particles long journey from the cloud to the ground. More flakes join onto it to form a light layer of snow on the ground. Snow that comes from a snowmaking machine only falls for 10 feet or so before it lands on the ground. It doesn’t have time to form big flakes so it is a little bit denser and heaver than natural snow is. Other than that there is no difference at all between snow from hoses and snow from clouds!

Frequently Asked Questions
Q:How long does it take to make snow?
A:It depends on the amount of compressed air and which snowgun is being used. The SNS Basic can cover a 10'x10' area with one inch of snow in about 1 hour. The SNS Combo cover a 20'x20' area with one inch of snow in about 1 hour. The SNS ComboPLUS can cover a 25'x25' area with one inch of real snow in 1 hour. .

Q:What outside conditions are required for snowmaking?
A:First, the air temperature must be below freezing, normally, snowmaking can begin at roughly 28 degrees with low humidity, or a degree or two lower when the humidity is closer to 100%. This temperature must be sustained during snowmaking. If in your area the low temperature does dip once or twice a winter to 28 degrees, snowmaking may not be possible. Another helpful factor is a lack of wind, since the particles are extremely small, even the slightest breeze will carry all your snow to the neighbors house!

Q:Is snowmaking noisy?
A:Snowmaking is not necessarily noisy but the equipment used for snowmaking is. Air compressors and pressure washers do create a bit of noise. For this reason, it is best to make snow in the evening right after the sun goes down and then in the morning before the sun rises to high and warms the air. The air/water mixture as it exits the gun make a "hiss" which normally can not be heard from inside even a closely neighboring house.

Q:If I am going to make snow using a Second Nature snowgun, what air compressors and pressure washers are recommended for snowmaking?
A:Any air compressor that is rated for continuous duty (meaning it can run without needed to be turned off to rest) is perfect for snowmaking. Most inexpensive air compressors are half duty, meaning for 30 minutes out of and hour the a/c is running, it must also rest for an equal amount of time, making it unwise to run your a/c for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you do choose to run a half duty compressor continuously for more than that time, it can greatly decrease the life of your air compressor. Gas powered compressors are a good option, but do cost more.
As for pressure washers, most electric pressure washers are half duty, so i would recommend a gas powered pressure washer. You can find electic pressure washers that can be run continuously but they are expensive and uncommon. As with air compressors, you can run half duty washers continuously but it greatly decreases the pressure washer's life. You will need a compressor that pumps at least 5 cubic feet of air per minutre (CFM) at 40 PSI. For the SNS Combo Gun you will need a pressure washer which pumps anywhere from 1.5-2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) of water.

Q:Are there any chemicals used in snowmaking?
A:No, its simply air and water. The rumor of chemicals being used in snowmaking comes from large ski resorts which use what is called a snow enducer. These enducers are completely biodegradable and simply raise the freezing point of water so snowmaking can be acheived at higher temperature. Snow enducers are somewhat expensive and not necessary for home snowmaking.

Q:Is snowmaking enviornmentally safe?
A:Yes, since there are no chemicals used in snowmaking, it's just as safe as watering your lawn, the only difference is that your lawn ends up white instead of green! Which, in our opinion, is a much better look! ;-)

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