Behind the Scenes – Snowmaking at Elm Creek

By Jennifer DeJournett


Like many residents of the north metro area, my family and I have long enjoyed the recreational opportunities offered at Elm Creek Park Reserve.  I recently had the chance to tour the facilities at Elm Creek, and I wanted to share a “behind the scenes” peek at snowmaking in the park.

When the temperatures drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit — typically in late November — our 12-person crew at Elm Creek fires up the snow guns, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to cover the slopes and trails with snow. Todd Beamish, the Park Maintenance Supervisor at Elm Creek, says it typically takes about 17 days to create a suitable base for all the winter activities — the Alpine skiing and snowboarding slopes, the tubing area, and the 2.5-kilometer cross-country (Nordic) ski trail.

As long as all that takes, it is actually faster to build a good base with machine-made snow than with natural snow. Ten inches of natural snow only adds one inch to the snow base when packed. Machine-made snow is much denser, with ten inches packing down to a base of seven inches in the ski area. Additionally, the machine-made snow packs down better, is easier to groom, and lasts longer.

Thanks to the efforts of our Elm Creek crew, we are able to provide skiing, snowboarding, and tubing opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available during times when natural snow is scarce.  Perhaps most notable is our ability to make snow to support cross-country skiing, a capability that is uncommon in the metro area. Elm Creek is able to provide an average of 101 days of cross-country skiing per year, whereas Hyland Lake Park Reserve — which relies on natural snow for its trails — averages 61 “skiable” days.

The payoff for all that hard work is obvious, with so many families taking advantage of the winter sports opportunities and high school cross-country ski teams practicing and competing in our park. More than 30 high school teams train at Elm Creek, and more than 1,700 high school skiers have purchased passes to ski on our cross-country ski trails. Skiers throughout the metro know that they can be confident in heading to Elm Creek for their daily or weekly cross-country ski experience because the snow will be plentiful and well-groomed.

In closing, I am very proud of the opportunities our park is able to provide through the hard work of the Park District’s Maintenance and Park Facilities staff. I know that if you take the short trip over to Elm Creek Park Reserve, you too will find the same opportunities for fun and sense of pride in our park that I have found.


About Jennifer DeJournett, Commissioner District 2

Jennifer DeJournett is currently serving her first term as Commissioner for District 2. District 2 represents Brooklyn Park, Champlin, Dayton, Maple Grove and Osseo. To contact her, email [email protected] or call 612-718-8251.