Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Let motorists know when there's artificial snow: Our View

A simple sign could help prevent crashes.

1:10 PM, Nov. 11, 2013  |  Comments
A snow gun sprays artificial snow at Granite Peak Ski Area. Some residents complain about driving risks when snow from the mountain blows over local roads.
A snow gun sprays artificial snow at Granite Peak Ski Area. Some residents complain about driving risks when snow from the mountain blows over local roads.
  • Filed Under

Editor's note: A version of the editorial below was first published on Jan. 5, 2011. With the issue back in the news after a spate of minor traffic crashes last week were blamed on artificial snow from Granite Peak Ski Area, we are republishing an updated version today.

We live in Wisconsin. It snows here. In fact, around Rib Mountain, sometimes it "snows" even when it isn't snowing.

That is to say, sometimes that snow you see is being made by Granite Peak Ski Area. The snow guns are aimed squarely down the mountain, but when weather conditions are right, as they were at times last month, the snow blows over parts of Rib Mountain and even across Highways 51 and 29.

Granite Peak is a massive economic and cultural boon to the region. It generates sales and room tax dollars for local governments, it helps to keep the local economy working and for a lot of people outside of the area it's the local landmark that puts Wausau area on the map.

But the blowing snow creates risks on the roads, and it does mean certain costs beyond just extra shoveling for some folks. The Marathon County Highway Department has had to deploy its plow trucks to clear the roads of Granite Peak snow. And the conditions created by the artificial snow can make for potentially hazardous driving.

What's the answer? There may not be a good one. In an ideal world, maybe Granite Peak managers would always be able to carefully consider the impact of prevailing winds, calculate that against the volume of snow it's producing per hour and so on to make sure that its snow doesn't end up blowing across the freeway. But that seems, frankly, unreasonable to expect. The ski hill runs on snow. If it can't make snow, or can make it only under very specific conditions, the business effects would be real.

It's not the case that every time the ski hill fires up the snow guns, we all get snowed on. It takes a specific set of circumstances for this to become a problem. Conditions have to be right for Granite Peak to be making snow in the first place - the right temperature, not enough natural snow and so on. The wind has to be blowing in the right direction.

Granite Peak management contacts the state Department of Transportation whenever it plans to make snow. But what about the city of Wausau and the town of Rib Mountain? That's no burden on Granite Peak, and it would allow local street crews to prepare with salt and sand. Granite Peak should be expected to be a good community partner on this.

And if the degree of the problem is such that it's consistently making road conditions unsafe, there is a local model for how to deal with it. In Rothschild, steam from the paper mill sometimes can create icy conditions on the road. The answer wasn't to close down the paper mill, it was to post a sign, with a flashing light, warning motorists when conditions were hazardous to slow down.

Whether the problems posed by Granite Peak snow are a minor annoyance or an issue that needs addressing is a matter of perspective. But signs would be a relatively simple step that could help to make drivers safe.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
574 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1015 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1271 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports

ORDER YOURS

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports