How in the world could artificial snow be an accident? And how is it that people didn’t view it profitably right off the bat?
Well, first of all, you can thank jet engine research for artificial snow. In the 1940’s Canadian scientist Dr. Ray Ringer and his team were conducting experiments on the effects of rime icing. It’s the white ice that coats the surface of objects when water droplets freeze in fog.
Dr. Ringer and his colleagues were spraying water into the air of a lower temperature wind tunnel, directly in front of a jet engine’s intake. They wanted to create rime ice on the engine. Instead they created snow. Lots of it. So much that Dr. Ringer and his researchers had to stop the experiment to repeatedly shovel snow out the back of the wind tunnel.
You’d think someone would say – we’re making snow! Imagine how much money we could make doing this for ski slopes.
But no, they didn’t. They were scientists, so they shoveled the snow.
Over and over again.
Since Dr. Ringer had no interest in creating a snow-making machine, neither he nor his lab patented the work – they just published their results in scientific journals. Some commercial folks picked up on it and in 1949. Wayne Pierce, Art Hunt and Dave Richey owned a ski making company, Tey Manufacturing, and had dreams of ski slopes with perpetual snow.
They built, tested and,in 1954, patented a “snow cannon” snowmaking machine — first first tested at Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall Connecticut. A Canadian court ultimately threw out their 1954 patent – declaring that Dr. Ringer invented their process.
But that didn’t stopother snow makers. Over the next 60 years, theyintroduced scores of commercial snow making systems – many in use at resorts and ski slopes today. All ultimately rest on the principles Dr. Ringer accidentally discovered in 1949 when he sprayed water into a running jet engine in a wind tunnel.
Ray Ringer exemplifies an axiom featured on our website: Think unique. By trying to replicate the conditions that caused icing on airplanes, he invented artificial snow.