Improvements mean more snow at Ski Hill

GLADSTONE – Skiers and tubers will have more snow to play in this winter thanks to a new reservoir system being installed at the Gladstone Sports Park ski hill.

“We’re going to be opening up with a ton of snow,” said Nicole Sanderson, Gladstone parks and recreation director.

Previously, snow at the ski hill was produced using city water, which is delivered to hydrants at temperatures between 50 and 54 degrees. The reservoir itself allows the water to stay much cooler because of ambient temperatures.

In addition to the cooler water, the new system shoots water through the snow guns at 250 psi. The high pressure breaks up the water molecules making it freeze faster and at higher temperatures.

“We had to wait until it was 18 degrees and even then it was iffy. Now if it’s 25 degrees out we can have those guns running 24 hours a day,” said Sanderson. “We had to go out there at 2 a.m., set the guns up, and break everything down by 6 a.m.”

Because the snow is coming directly from ground water and not the cleaned drinking water used by the city, dirt and other particles in the water will create a basis for snow to crystalize around, increasing the efficiency of snow production.

The city hopes to open the park on Dec. 21 with roughly a foot of snow. In the past, passes have been opened at the park with as little as three inches of snow.

“This year we should be able to keep it going through the rain,” said Sanderson noting that thin layers of snow were frequently ruined by winter rains, causing ski hill closures.

“We haven’t had a product that was sustainable in 13 years,” admitted Sanderson.

So far, the city has spent a total of $36,000 to construct the reservoir and purchase equipment needed to create snow on the ski hill. The project was originally expected to cost $48,000 and the city received a $40,000 grant from the Hannahville Indian Community.

“You don’t do a project like this for $36,000. You just don’t, and we did it because everyone went above and beyond what they were getting paid for,” said Sanderson, particularly noting the work of Gary Johnson Excavating and Construction and Golder Associates engineering firm, two local companies involved in the project.

The new snow isn’t the only new attraction at the sports park this winter. Gladstone High School student Hans Ahola and Trent Bellingar, welding instructor for the Delta Schoolcraft Career and Technical Center, have been working to create terrain park equipment for the ski hill. Seven apparatuses are being constructed, including table top jumps and rails.

“A typical rail system like Hans has built would go for $1,600 to $3,200 and it was basically free,” said Sanderson, adding the materials for the equipment were largely leftovers from other city projects.

In the spring, the city is considering adding additional equipment to the new reservoir to supply water to the ball fields in the park. If it is determined that the reservoir can support the ball fields, the additions would raise the total expected price to $87,000. The city would approach the Hannahville Indian Community for the additional funding.

“This is brand new technology, and we want to make sure we make the best decisions,” said Sanderson.

Residents who are interested in more information about the Gladstone Sports Park or purchasing an annual membership can call 428-9222.