Kelly's Blog: While You Were Sleeping

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anywhere you go these days, the talk is about the cold temps.  Great if you are snow enthusiasts but this year the combination of cold temps and a shortage of natural gas and propane has energy costs sky-rocketing.

At Mount Snow we use electricity to power all of our chair lifts and to make snow.  Each fan gun is plugged into an electric outlet and is energy efficient but still require electricity to run.  Our air/water guns are supplied with air by electric air compressors located in the base area.  They require more compressed air to run, which require more electricity to run than our fan guns.

Last year Mount Snow paid an average of 10-11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Like many of your electric bills, our cost per kWh varies based on time of day and day of week. However, ours can also fluctuate based on the current supply and demand of electricity in New England.  Because we are a large consumer of electric, our electric provider can require us to scale back (called a curtailable time period) or charge us more (called a buy-through.)

Curtailable time periods:  This can be complicated folks!  Here is the simple story.  When the ISO New England electrical grid is forecasted to hit a peak the next day, our electric company gives Mount Snow notice that we have a “fully curtailable” period, usually 5 pm to 9 pm.  During these periods we try to power down to the bare minimum as the amount of electricity that you consume during this period sets your rates for the next 11 months.

If we decided to make snow during this period, our load could rise ten times higher than the electricity we use for the basics like lights, heat and computers.  And if we are consuming ten times more, our costs would also be ten times above the norm.  Making snow during these curtailable periods could triple our annual historical electricity costs.  Making snow in a curtailable period is a very unattractive option!

Buy-through time periods:  A buy through period is a time that our power provider can pass on the increased rates that they are paying, up to $.21/kWh between the hours of 6 am – 10 pm.  This is compared to our normal rate of roughly $.095.

In the past few years Mount Snow has seen very few, if any, buy-through time periods.  This year, they are being imposed on a daily basis.  Last week almost every day was a $.21 buy-through from 6 am – 10 pm.  That means that if we make snow during those times, it costs 2.2 times more to make snow.  When you use roughly 3 million kWh on snowmaking each month – every cent counts!

What does this mean for the rest of our snowmaking season?

If you are a “numbers person” you may have noticed that there are no limitations on us at night, from 10 pm to 6 am.  In fact, our price during that time period is a little under 7 cents.  With that in mind, we have decided to shift the bulk of our snowmaking to the  night shift and we will go hard at night and back off during the day.

How long will we need to do this?

Good question – all indications is that this will not go away anytime soon.  However, if the temps normalize, the limitations could improve.

What trails will we make snow on?

The following trails are all on our immediate hit list in an effort to fatten up for spring or for upcoming events event.  Of course, other trails could be added at a later date.

Long John
Snow Dance
South Bowl
Charlie's  Chase
Tubing Hill

Now I will ask for your help.  If you overhear someone saying, “I haven’t seen them making any snow,” please explain that all of our snowmakers on the hill working their magic, at night.

I have said it before.  We try to make “smart snow” and given the energy environment we are in we think this is the smartest plan possible.  While some resorts may be cutting back on our snowmaking, our plan allows us to continue with our original plan.  It may take us a little longer but we are confident that you will see the product you have come to expect from Mount Snow.
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