Wednesday 10 December 2014

Snow - making it happen

Snow making 

After an unusually wet summer, autumn was long, warm and relatively dry. Finally, temperatures have dropped and winter is creeping in, but the 'good' weather has continued, so not much snow. But at least it can now be made, which is exactly what's been happening.

For the last week or two all across the alps and around this valley, snow cannons have been drawing thousands of k-joules of electricity to pump and mix water with air, atomising the water into droplets which, when jetted into the freezing air form ice crystals. Over the years snow making techniques have improved so it's now less icy and comes pretty close to feeling like the real thing.

But it comes at a price:
To cover 100m x 100m's to a depth of 30 cm you need 3000m3 of snow, made from 1.3 million litres of water.
The estimated cost for 1m3 of snow is about £5 (chf 7.50) so the above 10,000m sq would cost about£15,000 (chf 22,000).

To put this into a context, a piste 60m wide and 800m long will cost around  £72,000 (chf 105,600) - that's a lot of ski passes and all you've got is a pile of snow. You then need piste machines to spread it around and the lifts to get people up the mountain....

And of course there's the cost to the environment - the extra energy used, water drained from reservoirs and other water sources and the extra water when it melts - which isn't just when spring arrives. The snow they made in November all melted on the lower slopes because it was so warm, but higher up the snow making is putting down a good base so for the Christmas guests things are looking 'al-white'.

Figures are based on information in the following articles: