Winter resorts, climate activists, skiers and snowboarders, and quite a few others have been fearing the end of white winters for years. Especially the snowboarders and skiers amongst us want winters with fresh fluffy flakes to lightly bounce through as we ride the pillows of white goodness down the mountain in the future.
This post isn’t going to provide ‘fresh’ snow, however it brings some insights on how to preserve the current snow for a great base (and even better future).
Laax (CH) is using two really interesting projects to preserve energy, snow for the coming season, and maximize profits by extending the season and cutting costs.
The first project has become rather widespread over the years: covering the glacier with a protective ‘freeze wrap’. According to the Weisse Arena AG website, this saves 40% energy costs by not having to collect so much new snow with snow-plows. This obviously also has a positive environmental effect.
Additionally, the 20,000m2 blanketing system preserves the glacier and holds 2.5 to 3 meters of snow for the coming season. This allows for early season openings and less risk for resort investors and local businesses.
The second project is one that I find a lot more interesting and innovative. It relies on the same principles and uses the same materials, but in areas where there would usually be cows grazing in the summer (i.e not on the glacier).
“Snow farming is the use of obstacles, equipment and knowledge about management of snow in order to strategically manipulate snow coverage. Often this is done for the purpose of skiing or even preventing snow drift in certain areas like roads.”
So that explains all those ‘randomly’ placed wooden fences along the slopes which I used to think were just to keep the drunk Brits on course.
The fences collect snow which can then be spread to the necessary areas by the snow-groomers.
Now this is my favorite part. To provide a snow park at the start of the season that has sufficient snow for a halfpipe and big kickers, the snow-wizards of Laax decided to fill up the monster-pipe on Crap Sogn Gion (at 2216m it’s not a glacier) with all the snow they could fit.
The huge pile of snow preserved in the half-pipe will get shoveled out at the beginning of the coming season for a fully equipped park from the start of the season.
Laax, as most other resorts, also uses huge water basins which collect the glacier’s melt-water and can be recycled for the snow-machines spraying the slopes in the winter.
Of course the entire winter sports industry isn’t exactly benefiting the environment. Industrializing, commercializing, and ruthlessly exploiting nature’s beauties has got to be one of mankind’s favorite past-times. These projects aren’t self-sustaining zero-emissions operating systems, but at least they are going in the right direction: cutting energy consumption, maximizing scientific research (all projects are under scientific observation and supervision), preserving local businesses, and providing us riders with big pipes and huge kickers all through the season.
Played while posting this post:
Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Cannonball Adderley – Dancing In The Dark
Miles Davis Quintet – My Funny Valentine