Objectives and Solutions
The operation employs 245 snowmaking machines and an infrastructure that pumps about 120 million gallons of water annually, giving the resort a 3-4 foot snowpack throughout the season. The system is so efficient that operators can start as many as 200 snowmakers in about an hour.
At its modest start-up in 1980, Perfect North had only rope tows, T-bars and about a dozen snowmakers covering roughly seven acres. But the family-owned operation has expanded each year and now features five chair lifts and six surface lifts serving more than ten times the skiable terrain, as well as one of the largest tubing operations in the entire U.S. According to President and General Manager Chip Perfect, the ability to quickly produce high volumes of good quality snow has been instrumental to the growth of the resort, which serves skiers and tubing enthusiasts from the metro areas around Cincinnati (Ohio), Lexington and Louisville (Kentucky), as well as Nashville (Tennessee).
One of the challenges the staff faces at the resort is its long operating hours, which can significantly reduce snowmaking time. “We make so much snow that it’s really not a pleasant experience for visitors, so we generally limit it to the hours when we’re closed,” Perfect explained. “All 22 trails are lit for night skiing, so between the climate and the long hours, we have a fairly short window for snowmaking,” he continued. “We need to be able to hit it hard when the conditions are right.
For many years, we were open until 3:00 am on Friday and Saturday nights, but that’s been cut back to 1:00 am this year to give our crews more time to replenish the snowpack and groom the runs,” he added.
“We knew early on that snowmaking was critical to a great experience on the hills. The snow is the reason people come; everything else is secondary. So we really focused on it right from the beginning, and we’ve enhanced our snowmaking capability every year,” said Perfect.
All of the snow guns now in use at Perfect North are manufactured by SMI, and every one is permanently mounted on a SnowTower™ (or pole-top unit). Most are the company’s signature PoleCat™ or Super PoleCat™ designs, with either hill air feed or onboard compressors. Unlike some resorts that boast 100% snowmaking on their trails, Perfect North runs enough machines to be able to make snow on virtually the entire skiing and tubing area at the same time.
“Dollar for dollar, the Super PoleCat is the most cost-effective snow machine on the market,” Perfect said. “That’s especially important in the tubing area, where the volume is so important. We essentially rebuild the tracks every time we make snow, and we have to choose our snowmaking nights carefully.” He estimated that the tubing area serves approximately 100,000 visitors per year.
Service has been an important facet of the long-standing relationship between Perfect North Slopes and SMI. “Some suppliers tend to forget their roots as they expand, but SMI has maintained their commitment to quality and service,” Perfect concluded. “Their core values are much like our own, and having them on the snowmaking team here has been a big factor in our success.”