Since the weather is getting warmer, snow comes later and leaves earlier with higher mean temperatures. At the turn of the century, ice was one of the major industries in Truckee. Ice was cut from Boca Reservoir at Donner Lake and sent to San Francisco by train to cool the refreshments of the newly flush population in the city by the bay. In the next 20 years, refrigeration and transportation reduced the viability of the ice business and it faded into history along with Boca Beer, OB’s Board and a host of other historic good ideas.
While Boca still freezes over every year, Donner Lake seldom has ice. This, more than any other condition, signals that our climate is warming. Significant snow, such as that experienced in Truckee, that supported the Winter Carnival and ski jumping in town, is seldom seen today.
Snow for the ski resorts is no longer predictable and has caused the birth of snow blowing equipment. Northstar has 250 snow blowers doing several specialized jobs. It has, like so many other things, become high tech. Controlled by many sensors, it tells when to turn on the guns, where on the hill is optimum and the duration of the water flow.
There’s a problem vexing the operation, which turns out to be temperature inversion. This occurs when the cold night air begins to sink to the bottom at ground level and warm ground air begins to rise above. This leaves a moving layer that is too warm to create snow from the snow guns. This is where the sensors and programming comes into play. Northstar, with this equipment, has been able to operate from December 6th with adequate snow on several runs.
The snow making equipment can use up to 3 million gallons of water a night. While at first blush, one might think that this is a gross loss of water. The truth is that most of this water sinks back into the ground at winter’s end and is returning to its storage place in the Martis Valley aquifer, purified and filtered by its journey through the earth to be used again at a latter date. And, Truckee water from the Martis Valley Aquifer is the best tasting water you’ll ever experience. It just comes out of the tap.