From wastewater to snow – exploring sustainable snowmaking at Montana ski resorts

The clubhouse at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club | Photo credit: Spanish Peaks Mountain Club

The Spanish Peaks Mountain Club in Big Sky, Montana, wants to convert wastewater into snow for its mountain, making it the second ski area in Montana to do so. The resort follows in the footsteps of the Yellowstone Club, a private club in Montana, as well as over a dozen ski resorts in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Switzerland that are switching to sustainable snowmaking technology to build their snowpack at the start of the season.

Golf course at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club | Photo credit: Spanish Peaks Mountain Club

Spanish Peaks Mountain Club is a private residential club in Montana that offers year-round amenities from a ski-in/ski-out clubhouse to golf, snowcat adventures, river camping and fishing. Members receive access to all amenities and can choose to rent or own the entire property. The club gives you access to Big Sky Mountain Resort and the Spanish Peaks property is operated by the resort and is open to the public.

The Spanish Peaks Mountain Club has applied for a permit from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to use reclaimed wastewater to make snow on groomed slopes at Spirit Mountain, the Spanish Creek Base Area and Southern Comfort Ski Area. This snow would be used primarily to build the base on the roughly 90-acre site in the early season. Implementation would occur in two phases: the first would use 23 million gallons of water to create 18 to 24 inches of snow, and the second would increase the amount to 44 million gallons of water per year.

Ski area near the mountain club | Photo credit: Spanish Peak Mountain Club

The Spanish Peaks Mountain Club has a common parent company with the Yellowstone Club. Richard Chandler, vice president of environmental management at Spanish Peaks and director of environmental management at the Yellowstone Club, is excited about this opportunity because turning recycled water into snow is both safe and environmentally friendly. It is sustainable because recycled water is used throughout the process instead of spring water and the overall goal is to avoid water waste. The recycled water is safe because it is additionally filtered twice – once when it runs through the snowmaking system and another time when it runs through the ground.

The Department of Environmental Quality has prepared a draft environmental impact assessment for this project and is accepting comments on the plan until June 6.

Boarding at Big Sky Mountain Resort | Photo credit: Spanish Peaks Mountain Club

Anna Harden

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