FARMINGTON — Snow-making at Titcomb Mountain was in dire need of an upgrade, and it got one that promises savings for the Farmington Ski Club.

With a goal of opening the local ski hill on Dec. 22, volunteers will soon spend a week making a good base of snow, club member Richard Forster said this week. Snow-making is planned for the first full week of December. The goal is to create an 8- to 12-inch base.

Club members have done that since purchasing a secondhand snow-making system from Sunday River in 1995. The system included snow guns that were 15 years old and required a lot of compressed air, Forster said.

“They also needed cold temperatures, 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and low humidity, to make good snow,” he said.

The club bought 14 new Ratnik Sky Giant low-energy snow guns this past summer. Assembled and sitting outside the ski lodge, 12 are double guns, the equivalent of 24 single guns, Forster said, explaining how water and air mix to create a spray of snow.

The new guns will create snow with about half the amount of air needed for the old system. The old guns used 2,500 cubic feet per minute. The new guns are expected to use 1,300 cubic feet per minute, he said.

The club also bought a 1,600-CFM air compressor that will allow members to supply compressed air at a lower temperature.

The old system included a 900-CFM air compressor, one without an air cooler. Compressed air at 160 degrees F was sent up to the snow guns. The compressor ate up $5,500 in fuel costs, Forster said.

“It is very difficult to make snow using hot air,” he said. “The air from the new compressor will be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.”

In addition, a 1,600-CFM air compressor was rented at a cost of $5,600 per month.

The club took out a loan of $45,000 to pay for the new compressor and is raising money to pay it off, he said.

The cost of the Ratnik snow-making guns was $25,900, paid for with a matching grant through the Titcomb Ski Club Educational Foundation.

The 900-CFM compressor was sold for $8,000, and that money was applied to the loan principal, Forster said.

The club is expecting a 6.4-year payback on its $70,900 investment through the savings of $11,100 per year on the compressor rental and fuel costs.

The club has worked hard to reach a matching grant of $60,000 from Kyes Insurance and Franklin Savings Bank for capital improvements to the ski area. It has almost raised its portion, Forster said.

Members devoted time this past summer to painting the lodge and outer buildings, replacing a rug inside and cutting and selling firewood from trees taken from the new racing course at the top of mountain.

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