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Summit Snowmaking Stage 4: Snowmaking Works

Snowmaking on Summit

Natural snowfalls are a fickle beast and the weather patterns don't regularly comply with our wish for a nice 30cm overnight and blue sky during the day. So back in 98 Mt Hotham Skiing Company created its snow making Master Plan to create consistency of snow cover and open terrain quicker. The plan would expand the snow making installed in the high traffic area of Slalom Gully in 1996, which was constructed in partnership with the Resort Management Board. On Summit this summer we are in the final stage of the master plan with the works underway on the Summit and sitting on the shoulders of 19 years of infrastructure projects before it.

19 years? Back then phones weren't smart, Playstation was a baby and Facebook was still 10 years away.

Why the time? Digging holes even in tough ground doesn't take that long. The simple answer, which really covers a complex set of reasons, is we are working in a beautiful and sensitive environment.

We all choose Hotham and the alpine area as our second home because of the place it is. A place of natural beauty shaped by the wind, snow and rain, a place of knurled snowgums, alpine grasses, wild flowers, pygmy possums, lizards and platypus. It is not a casual process to build in the high country, every step of the construction process needs to be considered, studied and planned with the natural environment front and centre, to quote Len Dobell, General Manager Operations for Mt Hotham Skiing Company - “We are lucky to be permitted to operate in such an environmentally sensitive area”.

That said it is not all just good will and self regulation, the alpine area is subject to stringent environmental assessment and regulation. The current Summit development involved detailed species assessment and a 6 week period of observation of the area before plans for the work could be developed for approval. The planning was then developed through extensive consultation with government departments, ecologists and geologists, engineers and snowmaking specialists.

Stage 4: Summit and Terrain Park

The final stage of the 19 year development program is currently in construction, which is the snow making system on the Summit, a system of 12 guns, 4 tower mounted guns and 8 mobile ones, a total of 18 new snow making positions. The plan involves a main trench from the top of the Summit chair down to the bridge on the northern side of the Summit with lateral trenches back out to the Summit chair, as you can see from the diagram below.

Hotham Summit trench layout

The trenches will take water and power to all the outlets. As I am sure you noticed, there are more outlets than guns. This allows the snowmaking crew to configure the placement of guns to suit the conditions, such as wind direction and humidity to achieve maximum results.

Date: 24-2-2017

New Tower guns

2 of the new tower guns are in place and looking fine on the Summit. The trench has been backfilled and towners in place above road Runner chair, very nice.

Date: 17-2-2017

 The trenching works above Road Runner chair have been completed and back filling stated, I saw new snow gun towers ready to be lifted in place very soon...exciting. The main trench continuing its steady march down the hill towards the bridge.

Summit Works at Sunrise Nice site in the morning light


Date: 7-2-2017
Substation well underway

New Summit substation

Date: 3-2-2017
Trench to the top of Road Runner chair complete, including pipes, pits and back fill. The slab has been poured for the top substation.

Trenching Summit

Date: 5-1-2017
Works have started on trenching, hard ground they tell me...Solid Rock to me!

Trenching started on Summit 2017

Stage 3: Lower Imagine & Lower Canyon, 2016

This section was completed in April 2016 and involved construction of the system to add 4 tower guns on Lower Imagine, 1 tower on Lower Canyon and a mobile at the bottom of Canyon. The system was connected into the existing pumping station at the top of Heavenly Chair, which was also finalised to take the increased capacity.

Snow making construction on lower Imagine

Stage 2: Pumping Station & New Guns

This was a major expansion and restructure of the snowmaking system, with a new dam and pumping station at Lock car park, along with 20 guns added. Snow guns, and of course all the trenching, was added along Mother Johnsons, Milky way, Upper Imagine and Snake Gully.

Hotham Snow Making Pumping Stations

Stage 1: The Beginning

This is when the project kicked off, with a dam on Swindlers creek, pumping shed and substation. Snowmaking on Sun Run, Sundowner, Summit Trainer, The Basin, Playground, Slalom Gully, Swindlers Trail & Gully Catwalk was added and Big D which is a its own stand-alone system seperate from the main snowmaking area.

Snow making on the baisn at night

13 February 2017