Combine snow, a great hill, snow tubes and friends and the result is a lot of laughter and a day or night of fun. Snow crunching under foot, the thrill of speeding down a slick snowy hill, crisp breezes, sunny days or starry skies—seems like simple fun. Yet, a glimpse behind the scene shows just how much work it takes on behalf of snow tube park operators to provide a great experience.
Optimum snow conditions are critical to good snow tubing, but nature does not always provide snow when and where we want it. Thus, water for snow making is a significant business cost for winter snow parks. In addition, the process of providing municipal water is an energy-intensive process. Ensuring that clean, drinkable water is always available requires an extensive system in which resources are used to pump, chlorinate, treat and distribute the water. As an extension of the Chicopee Tube Park Green Pathways environmental initiative—and as a way to curb rising water and energy costs–Chicopee Tube Park created a water harvesting system that takes advantage of water already available on the property. While doing so, they also eliminated the need for municipal water for snowmaking. Although Chicopee is not located in the Lake Simcoe watershed, the story is included here as a case study of what is possible.
The operators of Chicopee Tube Park have successfully transitioned from a system that uses municipal water for snow making to one that uses rain and meltwater runoff—quite an accomplishment. In fact, such a great accomplishment they recently were awarded the TIAO 2016 Tourism Industry Awards of Excellence—Sustainable Tourism Award (among other awards).
As a concept, this idea makes perfect sense. Getting it off the ground, however, required a lot of ingenuity and creativity. Technical aspects of the project can be found on the Chicopee Tube Park website, but finding the capital to enable construction of the water holding pond and water harvesting systems was a challenge. Bob Harris, General Manager at Chicopee Tube Park had to fully research existing incentives and subsidies, connect with the appropriate municipal representatives and most of all – deliver a compelling sales pitch to those involved. As with any new technology, some aspects of the plan needed adjusting once in operation. Yet, in the end, the success of this project speaks for itself.
Benefits to the environment in terms of energy use and water conservation are huge. Chicopee previously used about “4,023,340 million gallons of treated municipal water” annually. Now, not only is this amount of water not being drawn from the municipal system, but the use of non-chlorinated cool water from the pond has improved snow making efficiency. This increase in efficiency equates to about a “10% savings or reduction in water” (“441,400 gallons”). An additional benefit is that water which may have previously run off the property directly into the sewer system (taking debris such as sand and silt with it), is now diverted to the pond and–when put back on the hill–allowed to filter back into the soil naturally. Harvested water is collected from building rooftops, parking lots and from the hill itself in the form of melt water.
Efforts to reduce the environmental impact of operations and to save energy and water costs at Chicopee don’t stop here. Work is now underway to identify ways to potentially reuse greywater.
Chicopee Tube Park is located at 1600 River Road East, Kitchener, Ontario, N2A 4K8
And can be reached Toll Free at: 1-877-SNO-TUBE / 1-877-766-8823