Could Breckenridge better manage its snowfall with high-powered melters?
Breckenridge welcomes, even prays, for snow every winter, but town officials saw in action Thursday morning one proven way to get rid of excess piles of it when the snowfall gets to be too much.
Breckenridge town officials and Mayor Eric Mamula watched a live demo of a mobile snow melter Thursday morning inside the Stilson Lot, off Wellington Road, where the town hauls and stores excess snowfall in the winter.
For the demo, the New York-based company, Aero Snow Removal Corp., had one of its truck-mounted melters turn tons of the white stuff into water as town officials considered how one might work in Breckenridge.
“Right now, the town is looking into the snow-melting machine, but the demo was purely informational,” said Haley Littleton, a spokeswoman for the town. “We just wanted to see what it would look like and if it would be a good fit for Breckenridge.”
A melter could certainly help keep unwanted snow from piling up on Breckenridge streets and its already-taxed parking lots, but Littleton said the primary application for this kind of technology here could be freeing up high-dollar, prime real estate properties currently reserved for snow storage.
Littleton said the town’s Public Works department will follow up on the demo, continue to weigh the idea and, if town staff decide it’s a good idea, present something to Breckenridge Town Council down the road.
As for the melters, Aero Snow has larger, tractor-pulled units, too, said Robert Stone, the company’s general manager at Denver International Airport, but the model on display Thursday in Breckenridge has been rated to melt up to 150 tons of snow per hour.
It’s totally self-propelled and has been helping keep flights arriving and departing on time at DIA for the last 10 years, he added.
“You do the math conversion to pounds, and 150 tons is a lot of snow,” Stone said.
In fact, it’s exactly 300,000 pounds of it.
By making the melter mobile, he continued, Aero Snow has all but eliminated one significant cost related to snow removal: transport.
“Sometimes we truck snow to a location,” he said, explaining that’s not usually the best way to handle it. “You can take one of the pieces of the puzzle out of the way by bringing the melter to the snow.”
The water produced by the melter shoots out of the machine on each side, almost like two open fire hydrants when the machine’s in melting mode.
And operators can turn it up even hotter, Stone said, but they try to keep the water exiting the machine at about 32 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit to keep energy consumption down.
He acknowledged that the water pouring out of his company’s melters can lead to ice forming, but there are ways they mitigate that, he said.
“We try to park these melters in close proximity to storm drains,” Stone explained. Doing so allows subsurface-earth temperatures to help warm the H2O while it’s being funneled to a less obtrusive locale.
According to Stone, Aero Snow owns and operates roughly 150 melters across the U.S. The company manufactures the machines, which he described as a “somewhat expensive” niche product built for a singular purpose.
As a result, Aero Snow only rents its melters out — many times by the season — and does not sell them, he said.
As far as the cost of one goes, the model working in Breckenridge on Thursday has been valued somewhere between $650,000 to $750,000, according to Stone, who put the ballpark cost of renting one out at about $1,500 to $2,000 an hour.
There’s only a certain number of entities that need a machine like this, such as northern cities or airports that have to clear large amounts of snowfall. However, for the ones who do, the company’s biggest claim rests on the side of its machines: “The World’s Best Snow Melters … Next to the Sun.”
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