Cloud seeding aims to increase Winter Park snowfall
Denver Water in partnership with Winter Park Resort will be helping clouds produce greater amounts of snowfall this winter.Like a farmer would sow seeds in soil to produce a crop, Denver Water and the resort will be seeding moisture-laden clouds with silver iodide particles released into the sky to increase snowfall.Several states permit the process for reasons varying from hail suppression to increased precipitation.Seeding clouds has long been a practice of Vail Resorts, but this will be the first year Intrawest’s Winter Park Resort is buying into the procedure.Joe Busto of the Colorado Water Conservation Board calls the partnership history-making.”We have never had a 50-50 water manager-ski area program before,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been hoping for for many, many years.”It and Denver Water are sharing the $110,000 cost of the project, which will take place in locations within 35 miles of the ski area.Denver Water last partook in cloud seeding over Winter Park in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004.The project is slated to take place during the months of November, December and January, according to Steve Schmitzer, manager of water resource analysis for Denver Water.Meanwhile, a supporting $60,000 cloud-seeding project will take place from November through March in the same area coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and water users from the lower Colorado River basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada.The cooperation and funds supplied by lower basin users to set up two high-elevation remote generators in Winter Park helped to make the project possible, Schmitzer said. Colorado River stakeholder involvement came out of 2007 negotiated water agreements to “work together on projects rather than fight together,” Busto said.From the generators, minute amounts of silver iodide are sprayed across a propane flame, allowing the silver iodide particles to rise into the clouds. The silver iodide causes the could moisture to freeze and create ice crystals, which then grow large enough to fall as snow.Stakeholders expect a precipitation increase of 10-15 percent from the program, similar to what Denver Water saw in past years.”The studies we’ve done, we’ve had similar results,” Schmitzer said.About 10 Winter Park-Denver Water financed generators will be located on mostly private properties, and will be turned on and off depending on weather conditions and the presence of moisture-producing clouds. The two other generators will be located in higher areas and managed remotely by computer. The project involves a meteorologist who will determine appropriate times for cloud seeding.The quantities of iodide present in runoff due to cloud seeding equates to less iodine that what is found in salt on food, according to report on cloud seeding during the 2008 Arizona Weather Modification Conference. There is also more silver exposure found in tooth fillings, and there have been no human effects from cloud seeding found in 40 years of research, the report reads.By participating in the program, Winter Park Resort hopes added snow means a greater number of powder days – even an extension to the snow season.Snow is man-made on just 10 percent of the resort’s 3,000 acres.”With cloud seeding, it’s hoped there will be an additional amount of snow throughout the area,” said Doug Laraby of Winter Park Resort. “The more snow you have, the better our product is. It’s good for the economy and river waters.”- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.