Snowmaking feature story
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!
◆ 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.