Skiers and riders took to the slopes at Gunstock Mountain during opening weekend. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — New high-efficiency snowmaking guns helped Gunstock open its 80th ski season with an abundance of man-made snow.
The county-owned ski area opened last Friday with 13 trails and three lifts operating and with a base of 8-14 inches.
“We had a good opening weekend and are looking to get some natural snow later this week which will hopefully allow us to open our lifts to the summit,” said Mike Roth, Gunstock’s marketing and sales manager. He said attendance figures were not immediately available but the area parking lot was very busy.
He said skiers were very happy with Gunstock’s conversion to a radio frequency-based ID system for lift tickets and chairlift access gates.
“It only took one or two ski runs for most people to adjust to the system and know where they should put their cards,” said Roth.
A sensor at the lift detects the pass, even if it’s in a skier's coat pocket, and it opens a gate allowing the skier to proceed to the chair.
The ski area opened without natural snow, but it had lots of ground coverage from the snow it had made itself.
General Manager Greg Goddard told members of the Gunstock Area Commission last week that the new sled-mounted guns are helping reduce energy use and he predicted a $110,000 savings in electrical costs.
“The new HKD sled-mounted guns we purchased this year have been performing as advertised. At 20 degrees, we can pump water at full capacity while only running one air compressor, saving us nearly $200 an hour in electric costs compared to last year’s configuration,” Goddard said.
The new technology has also allowed snowmaking crews to make more snow than usual. Goddard said that, by Nov. 12, snowmaking crews had already exceeded their water use for all of November of last year.
“Our investment in new technology is paying off in spades. We’ve cut our energy use from 5,600 kilowatt hours to 4,800 and already saved about $20,000,” said Goddard.
He said that, as the weather gets colder, the system gets even more efficient.
Snowmaking and grooming manager Dan Carbonneau reported that, when the area began making snow for the season last month, it had a successful opening run of 13.5 million gallons in 55 hours, an average of 4,100 gallons per minute. With temperatures in the teens, they were able to pump 5,500 GPM, their maximum pumping capacity, while only needing to run one of their compressors. Using the old technology, all three of the resort’s pumps were needed to max out their pumping capacity.
“By not using the other compressors, we saved $10,000,” said Goddard.
He said the area will see even more significant energy savings next year when it signs a new contract that reduces rates from 9.5 cents to 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
As of late last month, Gunstock had sold nearly 2,000 season passes, totaling more than $391,000, eclipsing the amount of revenue generated by pass sales for the entire season last year by $106,760.
Ellianah Barton, Jackson Barton and Delia Grace boot up for their first runs of the season at Gunstock Mountain on Sunday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)