Snowmaking fea­ture story

Alpine News - - Contents - By Vanessa Ba­con-Hall

ON A brisk au­tumn day in late March, one which would on any given win­ter day be classed as ‘blue­bird’, skiers and board­ers lined up on Mt Buller’s Bourke Street and rode a long white run of freshly made snow in tem­per­a­tures which were hov­er­ing in the teens.

The aptly named ‘snow fac­tory’ was pump­ing out the white gold and gave those in its midst a glimpse of what is just the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to new snow mak­ing tech­nol­ogy.

Re­sem­bling that of a sea con­tainer and from ar­guably the lead­ers in snow mak­ing tech­nol­ogy, ‘ Tech­noAlpin’ the steel framed and aptly named “snow fac­tory” can rightly lay claim to be­ing able to pro­duce glo­ri­ous snow in tem­per­a­tures well above zero and where pre­vi­ous op­ti­mal ‘dew points’ need not be fac­tored into the snow mak­ing equa­tion.

Gen­eral man­ager of Buller Ski Lifts (BSL) Lau­rie Blampied wel­comed the ar­rival of the $1.6m in­vest­ment to the ski area and stated that the snow fac­tory will re-write the script for the start of win­ter.

“In­stead of won­der­ing when the snow will ar­rive we can as­sure our guests of early sea­son ski­ing and snow­board­ing from the be­gin­ning of the sea­son,” Mr Blampied said.

Mt Buller al­ready has an im­pres­sive amount of snow mak­ing in­fra­struc­ture and the new snow fac­tory will fur­ther en­sure that there is snow on the ground with the tech­ni­cal ‘specs’ on the snow fac­tory stat­ing that it can con­tin­u­ously pro­duce snow 24 hours a day, seven days a week at tem­per­a­tures well above freez­ing. All that equates to up to 220 cu­bic me­tres of snow daily at up to 15 de­grees Cel­sius.

While in­fra­struc­ture such as the snow fac­tory will pave the way for guar­an­teed snow for the du­ra­tion of the of­fi­cial win­ter sea­son in Aus­tralia, sim­i­lar snow mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are en­sur­ing that Euro­pean re­sorts are re­main­ing open for longer and al­low­ing them to have the guar­an­teed com­pet­i­tive edge against those that are pri­mar­ily re­ly­ing on tra­di­tional snow from good old Mother Na­ture.

One such re­sort to lead the way in this field is Val d’Isere.

Sit­u­ated in the French Alps, Val d’Isere boasts the largest snowmaking fa­cil­ity in Europe and is ca­pa­ble of pump­ing out an im­pres­sive 2,500 square me­tres of snow per hour.

To put that into a size­able vis­ual, that equates to cov­er­ing a soc­cer field in a me­tre of snow in less than one hour.

Val d’Isere’s im­pres­sive snow mak­ing fa­cil­ity is pri­mar­ily based un­der­ground and fea­tures a con­trol room that han­dles the well oiled ma­chine and from the win­ter just past also fea­tures ‘Le Snow Fac­tory’ which is based in a gi­ant hangar to the side of the Olympique Gon­dola.

The fac­tory came on board in the nick of time last De­cem­ber in what was to be­come a sea­son which recorded one of the low­est nat­u­ral snow­fall depths in re­cent years. Le Snow Fac­tory got to work pump­ing out suf­fi­cient snow to fill an Olympic-sized swim­ming pool in 30 min­utes and the whole Bell­e­varde Moun­tain that tow­ers above the fac­tory in less than a week.

The for­mi­da­ble in­fra­struc­ture was de­vel­oped al­most en­tirely in Val d’Isere and will see the ben­e­fits of such in­no­va­tion be­ing reaped the world over for many, many years to come.

Along with the im­pres­sive Snow Fac­tory new in­no­va­tions in snowmaking are con­stantly be­ing made and ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies im­proved on.

At the re­cent lead­ing trade fair for Alpine Tech­nolo­gies which was held in Inns­bruck, Switzer­land, ef­fi­ciency of snow mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties was one of the main ex­hibit­ing qual­i­ties on dis­play.

A good ex­am­ple of this is the “Tridusa” in­no­va­tion from the 2SNOW Group. This in­no­va­tion triples the snow pro­duc­tion of each snowmaking point, as direc­tor of the group Claus Dan­gel ex­plains, “The ex­treme per­for­mance of the triple-head lance (snow­gun) is at its max­i­mum limit and makes the snowmaking sys­tem even more pow­er­ful.” The group claim that the Tridusa sys­tem can pro­duce up to 40 cu­bic me­tres per hour.

Those lead­ers in snowmaking, Techno Alpin, from South Ty­rol were also on dis­play and are promis­ing a real rev­o­lu­tion in snowmaking with their new TR8 fan gun. Techno Alpin claim to set as yet un­ri­valled tech­no­log­i­cal stan­dards with head engi­neer Flo­rian Sch­walt re­port­ing; “There are three main goals ev­ery time a new snow­maker is de­vel­oped which in­clude max­i­mum snow­ing per­for­mance, max­i­mum en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and the low­est pos­si­ble noise and the TR8 drive tech­nol­ogy de­liv­ers on all three.”

Back to that ‘blue­bird’ day in March at Mt Buller when turns were be­ing made on freshly made snow, BSL gen­eral man­ager Lau­rie Blampied was one of the first to make some ski turns down the 100 me­tre slope and stated, “It’s ski­ing re­ally well and feels just like a spring snow day.”

It’s fair to say that the fu­ture is look­ing good for the ski re­sorts the world over and it is ad­vance­ments in snow mak­ing in­fra­struc­ture that is go­ing to en­sure that the white flakes are pumped out, even in balmy Vic­to­rian tem­per­a­tures.

Re­cent ad­vance­ments in snow mak­ing tech­nol­ogy will al­low for both North­ern and South­ern hemi­sphere re­sorts to have vi­able win­ters of deep, white, fluffy pow!

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PHOTO: Rhylla Mor­gan

◆ SNOW: On an au­tumn day in late March Mt Buller rolled out their new ‘Snow Fac­tory’ and pro­duced beau­ti­ful snow in tem­per­a­tures that were well above zero. It is tech­nol­ogy such as the snow fac­tory which will en­sure that snow lovers con­tinue to have places to play.

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