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With temps down, snowmaking is on at Minnesota ski hills

Minnesota ski hills started making snow over the weekend, including at Buck Hill in Burnsville.

BURNSVILLE, Minnesota — Minnesota ski hills and businesses are gearing up for the winter season. 

Over the weekend, ski resorts across the state posted on social media about how they had started making snow. 

At Buck Hill in Burnsville, staff began the snowmaking process on Friday night. 

It drew crowds on Sunday afternoon. 

Sotero Manwa of Burnsville stopped by with his family so his wife, Grace, could see snow for the first time. Grace, who is from Kenya, is spending her first winter in Minnesota. 

"That's why I brought my wife for the first time to see how they make the snow without the snow coming from the sky," Manwa said. 

Grace's reaction? "It's too cold," she said. 

"We've got our snowmakers going. As much as we can, around the clock, we're going to make snow and get open as soon as we can," said John Sandberg, operations manager at Buck Hill. 

Sandberg said snowmaking goes off of the wet bulb temperature, a combination of air temperature and humidity. 

"Making snow, it's extremely complicated but really simple. You take compressed air and water, mix them together with a fan or a jet, and loft it into the air," Sandberg explained. "Make as small of a water particle as you can so that it freezes when it hits the cold air and falls down as a snowflake." 

Buck Hill has about 120 snow guns, both permanent and portable. As of Sunday afternoon, Sandberg said they were pumping about 1,800 gallons of water a minute. 

"We can get up to 5,000 gallons a minute when temperatures fall enough," he said. 

As long as conditions are favorable, they will keep the machines on around the clock. Staff is working 12 hour shifts: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

"Yeah, we'll see our families when we get done making snow," Sandberg said. 

Just down the street, Zombie Boardshop wrapped up a busy weekend. 

"Temps are dropping and people are stoked. So we've been busy, that's for sure," Owner Shawn Solem said. 

Zombie Boardshop has been around since 2005 as an independently owned snow, skate and surf shop. 

Solem said his customers are itching to get out on the slopes. 

"For preseason sales, it's definitely up in comparison which is a good sign," Solem said. 

Supply chain issues have also improved. Solem said at this time last year, the shop was not nearly as full. 

"There were certain categories like boots, or certain outerwear pieces that we couldn't get our hands on and that's gotten dramatically better this season," Solem said. 

For both Solem and Sandberg, snow is not only good for business but for fun. 

"I'm excited. I want to snowboard, personally," said Sandberg, who was wrapping up his second shift making snow. "I'm excited. It's hard work but I guess what cooler thing could you do?"

Buck Hill is hiring across all departments for the season. You can find more information, here.  

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