Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is it real or is it...?

Can you tell by looking that this isn’t natural snow? I hesitate to call it fake snow, which in my mind implies plastic or some other non-snow material. This is manmade snow from the ski resort that blew over to the bottom of my lane during fierce winds yesterday.
During this snow-less and mostly warm-ish winter, the neighboring ski resort has been forced to make snow when they can, which hasn’t been all that often. They make snow by shooting aerated water over the ski slopes when the temperature is below freezing. Voila! Snow results.

I can’t tell you the number of times people have asked me in October when the ski resort was going to make snow. It’s the kind of question for which guest service people like to make up snarky answers that of course are never delivered to the callers. The second question in a similar vein that we often get is “It’s 31 degrees (at my house at 6 a.m.), why aren’t you making snow?” The answer to that one is a tad more complicated, but usually boils down to the fact that the ski resort isn’t at their house, and it doesn’t do the resort much good if the temperature isn’t below freezing throughout the majority of the night (as opposed to just at 6 a.m.). The ski resort is at the mercy of Mother Nature like everyone else.

When you look at this manufactured snow up close, the flakes look a lot like naturally falling snowflakes, but there are some differences. Typically, the natural snowflakes are more complex, with more points and more variety to their shapes. At least most of the time. Even natural snowflakes have several general types that are shaped by temperature, ice and wind. There’s the dendrite snowflake, the plate snowflake, the plate-dendritic snowflake that starts as a plate-shaped and ends as a dendric type. There’s simple prisms, stellar plates, sectored plates, stellar dendrites, and at least a dozen more types of more and less complexity. Manmade snow always has fewer points and less definition but sometimes natural snowflakes are just as lacking in complexity and diversity.

This morning, after I took this photo, I had the natural kind of snow, too. Typical of this winter, it didn’t last long.


Scott said...

The heck with it; let's just all buy a plane ticket to Seattle or Portland to enjoy snow this year! Oh, wait...their airports are closed by snow!

Cathy said...

Snow is snow in my book, especially the way this winter is going. But interesting that manufactured snow is different from natural snow.

Saturday is looking like there's a chance of getting some snow. Hopeful is enough that I can have day off from work!

Beth Niquette said...

This is just fascinating! Wow! I did NOT know this. I think I need a snow maker where I live. (sigh) All it does is rain and flood here in the Mid-Willamette Valley in Oregon.