by definition is "crystallized ice particles having the physical integrity
and the strength to maintain their shape". Normally created by Mother Nature,
but when Mother Nature does not deliver and snow is needed for commercial
ski resorts, moviemaking, crop protection or for any other reason, that's
when the snowmakers step in.
The First Machine Made Snow
In a low temperature laboratory in
Canada, the effects of rime icing on the intake of a jet engine was
being studied. Lead by a Dr. Ray Ringer, the researchers in an effort to
reproduce natural conditions, were spraying water into the air just before
the engine intake in a wind tunnel. They did not create any rime ice but
they did make snow and they had to regularly shut down the engine and the
wind tunnel to shovel out the snow. Uninterested in inventing a snowmaking
machine, no patents were filed by the laboratory researchers. The research
published in scientific journals, was made prior to any other claim to
Wayne Pierce was in the ski manufacturing
business along with his two partners, Art Hunt and Dave Richey. The Tey
Manufacturing Company of Milford, Connecticut was formed in 1947. They
sold a new ski design - the ALU-60 was an aluminum ski with a hollow interior
and three layers of metal bonded together. In 1949, the company was hit
hard by a slump in ski sales, the result of dry snowless winter.
"I know how to make snow!" were the
words spoken by inventor/engineer, Wayne Pierce, on March 14, 1950. Pierce
came to work on that March morning, with an idea that if you could blow
droplets of water through freezing air, the water would then turn into
frozen hexagonal crystals, aka snowflakes. Using a paint spray compressor,
nozzle and some garden hose, Pierce and his partners created a machine
that created snow. The company was granted a basic-process patent and installed
a few of their snowmaking machines, but they did not take their snowmaking
business too far. In 1956, the three partners sold their company and patent
rights to the Emhart Corporation.
US Patent 2676471 issued April 1954
Joe Tropeano, the owner of the Larchmont
Irrigation Company of Boston Mass, had once worked with the Tey Manufacturing
Company helping them with the installation snowmaking machines. Tropeano
later bought the Tey patent and commenced to make and develop snowmaking
In the 60's, Tropeano and Larchmont
started to sue other makers of snowmaking machinery. The Tey patent was
then contested and overthrown on the basis on the Canadian research, which
had proceeded the patent granted to Wayne Pierce.
In 1958, Alden Hanson filed a patent
for a new type of snowmaking machine, the fan snowmaker. The earlier Tey
patent was a compressed air and water machine, which had some drawbacks,
noise, energy demands, etc. In 1961, Hanson was issued a patent for the
use of a fan, particulate water and the optional use of a nucleating agent
(dirt particles). Hanson patent is considered the pioneer patent for all
fan snowmaking machines. Hanson also developed the Hanson ski boot and
the Flofit for the Lange ski boot.
Patent #2,968,164 issued January 1961
On June 11, 1969, inventors Erikson,
Wollin, and Zaunier (Lamont Labs, Columbia University)) filed a patent
(which became know as the Wollin patent). It was for a specially developed
rotating fan blade that was impacted with water from the rear, resulting
in mechanically atomized water leaving the front which froze and became
snow. To prevent any patent infringement dispute with the Hanson patent,
the manufacturers of the snowmaking machine based on the Wollin patent,
Snow Machines International (SMI) founded by Bill Gilbert who had aided
the Lamont researchers, signed licensing agreements with both the Hanson
and Wollin patent holders.
U.S. Patent #3610527 issued
As part of the licensing agreement
with Hanson, SMI was subject to inspection by a Hanson representative.
The representative turned out to be Jim VanderKelen, who had been the patent
attorney for the Hanson patent. In the fall of 1974, Bill Gilbert who no
longer wished to develop snowmaking technology further, sold 50 percent
of Snow Machines International to Jim VanderKelen. A year later VanderKelen
bought the other 50 percent and renamed the company Snow Machines Incorporated
In 1974, a patent was filed for the
Boyne Snowmaker - a ducted fan which isolated the nucleator to the outside
of the duct and away from the bulk water nozzles, which were positioned
above the centerline and on the downstream edge of the duct. SMI was the
licensed manufacturers of the Boyne Snowmaker.
In 1978, Bill Riskey and Jim VanderKelen
filed a patent later called the Lake Michigan Nucleator - by surrounding
the existing nucleator (which required a small amount of air and water)
with a water jacket the Lake Michigan Nucleator had none of the freezing
problem earlier fan snowmakers sometimes had.
In 1992, Jim VanderKelen received
a patent for his Silent Storm Snowmaker - a multiple speed fan and a shape
of a new style propeller blade.
*Special thanks to Dennise at "Snow
Machines Inc.", George Jennings at Woomera
Snow Guns Pty Ltd Steve Kemp of Snowtech_Services and Alf Bucceri of
||Snowmaking apparatus and methods
||Method and apparatus for making
snow for ski slopes and the like
||Snow making system
The information on fan snowmakers
was taken from an original article written by Jim VanderKelen, founder
of Snow Machines Inc. Provided by Snow Machines Inc.
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