The plunging, chilling temperature in the metro overnight Jan. 7 made for blizzard-like conditions in parts of Bloomington.
The weather equation was right for Three Rivers Parks District crews to train snowmaking guns on Hyland Hills Ski Area. The temperature was perfect: below 28 degrees and dropping. Equally important, the dewpoint and humidity were low.
Employees worked until 9 a.m. the next morning laying down 10 inches of new snow, pushing it and grooming it on a base of 12-18 inches on the ski area. About 1 million gallons of water was pumped through nine snow guns, said district ski area specialist Troy Barten.
The snow machines pull from an eco-friendly pond near the ski hills that collects melted snow for future snowmaking operations. “We’re stewards of the land and environment, and we take it seriously. We don’t want to be wasting,” said Barten of the heavily scripted production.
Like work at the district’s Elm Creek Park Reserve ski areas, snowmaking is serious business in a climate that naturally produces a limited number of ski days.
Snowmaking began on Hyland Hills' Nordic trails in January 2014. The average number of skiing days at the area in the previous five years on natural snow was 70. In 2018-2019, there were 123 downhill; on the Nordic trails, 122.
And more opportunity has meant an avalanche of skiers: Nearly 92,000 people showed up to skinny ski and 189,900 to downhill or snowboard last season at Hyland alone, according to the district. Hyland averaged 15,800 Nordic skiers per season over the five years before snow guns arrived on the scene.