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Snowshoe invests $4 million in automated snowmaking gear

An image of snowmaking equipment provided by Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

To make early December openings easier and maintain high-quality trail surfaces, Snowshoe Mountain Resort will install nearly $4 million in energy-efficient, state-of-the-art snowmaking and snow grooming equipment this summer and fall. The new gear is expected to be operational prior to the start of the 2018-2019 ski season.

Officials with Snowshoe Mountain, currently the only West Virginia ski resort with enough snow to remain open on a daily basis, announced the investment on Thursday.

“This is the single most important investment our new owners, Alterra Mountain Company, could make in Snowshoe,” said Frank DeBerry, Snowshoe’s president and chief operating officer. “As this past season demonstrates, Snowshoe’s unique microclimate and elevation proide us with the cold and snow we need to provide the best and most skiing and riding in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.”

The 4,848-foot high mountaintop resort with 60 trails, 14 lifts and 257 acres of skiable terrain was bought last April by Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners, both of Colorado. In January, Alterra bought Snowshoe and 11 other ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada from the Colorado firms.

The installation of the new snowmaking gear “further boosts and protects our greatest strength, all while taking yet another step towards reducing our impact on the environment,” DeBerry said.

The $4 million installation includes the addition of 90 new SnowLogic DV7 “stick” guns, which use less than 10 percent of the electricity of conventional snowmaking gear. They are expected to save more than 5 million kilowatt hours of use during the course of a season — enough to power 500 homes for a year.

Other gear to be installed during the off-season includes 160 new snow guns to be positioned in key, fixed locations around the mountain; 75 fixed position, low-energy, high-production DemacLenko Titan 2.0 snow guns — the most powerful currently on the market; and automation hardware and software.

“The new elements of our system will be automated, but our entire system will not be,” said Shawn Cassell, spokesman for Snowshoe Mountain, since some older existing gear will remain in use.

While Snowshoe will not be adding any new skiing and snowboarding terrain once the new gear is installed, “we will be able to get trails like Shay’s Revenge open much earlier in the season,” Cassell said.

On Thursday, 6 inches of new natural powder snow had accumulated on the Pocahontas County resort and temperatures in the teens kept snow guns in production throughout the day. Seven lifts and 38 trails were open.

The new snow and cold temperatures made it possible for Snowshoe to schedule the reopening of its Silver Creek section on Friday through at least Sunday, with night skiing until 9 p.m.

Cassell said plans call for the resort to remain open through April 1.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.