Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

The Great Snow Gun Roundup

Snow guns at Bolton Valley Resort, Vermont. Photo courtesy of Bolton Valley Resort

Snow guns at Bolton Valley Resort, Vermont. Photo courtesy of Bolton Valley Resort

by Roger Lohr

This summer Vermont ski resorts are investing nearly $15 million to upgrade their snowmaking equipment, thanks in part to an innovative rebate offer from Efficiency Vermont. Efficiency Vermont’s Great Snow Gun Roundup supports the purchase of approximately 2,300 new low-energy snow guns for the upcoming season, and in return the resorts will donate 1,800 older model snow guns to scrap. The snow gun exchange program is expected to help the state’s ski industry reduce carbon emissions and save $2 million a year in energy costs.

Jim Merriam, executive director of Efficiency Vermont, said he hopes to replace 3,000 older snow guns with ones that are 85 to 90 percent more efficient. Funding for the program comes from the surcharge utility customers in the state pay to support Efficiency Vermont. While some may balk at having to subsidize snowmaking upgrades for private ski resorts, Merriam said the energy savings will benefit everyone, since we all share the same power grid.

Sugarbush Resort, Vermont. Photo courtesy of Jeb Wallace-Brodeur for Sugarbush Resort.

Sugarbush Resort, Vermont. Photo courtesy of Jeb Wallace-Brodeur for Sugarbush Resort.

Efficiency Vermont said they counted 3,000 to 3,300 older-technology guns at the beginning of the summer, and about 1,800 to 2,000 of those have been scrapped. The estimated annual energy savings from this swap is equivalent to saving enough electricity to supply approximately 1,500 homes for one full year, and to save enough diesel to heat 340 homes annually. These new guns are not only saving lots of energy for resorts, which will allow them to rely on less power and result in lower emissions, but they will also create better quality snow surfaces and enable resorts to blow snow at higher temperatures, extending the ski season for winter revelers everywhere.

“An industry-wide upgrade in snowmaking efficiency of this magnitude has never been seen before,” said Parker Riehle, Vermont Ski Areas Association President. “We are very proud of our partnership with Efficiency Vermont and that our resorts are leading the way in switching to low energy technology.” To help ski areas determine the efficient snow guns that would best meet their needs, Efficiency Vermont engineers conducted side-by-side testing of fifteen different models, tracking data on their air, water, energy consumption, and overall performance. Modern, energy-efficient snow guns require up to 85% less energy to operate than older snow gun models, and the new snow guns being installed this year represent the most advanced available.

Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT. Photo: Rikert Nordic Center

Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT. Photo: Rikert Nordic Center

Efficiency Vermont has also pledged to donate proceeds from the scrapped metal of old snow guns to Ski Vermont’s Learn to Turn program, which encourages people to embrace winter and try skiing through Learn to Ski month, the Fifth Grade Passport, and Bring a Friend challenge.

Follow the progress of Vermont’s Great Snow Gun Roundup via #VTSnowUpgrade. Ski Vermont (Vermont Ski Areas Association) serves its 20 alpine and 31 nordic member resorts in three major areas: Governmental Affairs, Marketing and Public Affairs.

Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont’s environment. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or visit the site.

Roger Lohr is a freelance writer and the founder of

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