Arizona Snowbowl receives natural snowfall thanks to its elevation, but the lower latitude of Arizona, along with the lack of humidity in the Southwest, means that snowmaking is necessary to guarantee a consistent season and product. Snowmaking typically begins in November, made over bare ground, and establishes the base and initial skiing surfaces until natural snow falls and provides sufficient cover. Snowmaking will also be used to touch up thin spots as they occur.
Natural snowfall occurs when moisture in the atmosphere condenses under cold conditions and, gathering enough weight, falls to the ground. Snowmaking shortcuts this process by eliminating the evaporation stage. Instead, water is forced through a device that bombards it with highly pressurized air. The compressed air fractures the water into very small particles as it moves through the gun, sending them into the atmosphere where, with a favorable temperature, they freeze and fall back down as snow.
Check out our pictures of the snowmaking machines, process, and folks who run it all: