Summer skiing – coming soon to a ski resort near you?!
What we wouldn’t give for our beloved ski resorts to be forever blanketed in pristine white snow. That way we could live the dream and carve powder every single day of the year. Unfortunately, it’s officially summer here in the northern hemisphere, and the world doesn’t quite work like that!However, our prayers might just have been blessed. A revolutionary new snowmaking machine, called The SnowFactory, could soon be keeping our favourite resorts open for longer, even quite possibly well into the summer months. Designed and built by Italian company TechnoAlpin, the SnowFactory is capable of producing snow regardless of air temperature, and can operate at up to 32°c (so long thermals!).
How is man-made snow produced?
A typical snow gun produces snow by combining water and compressed air. The air breaks the water into much smaller molecules, rapidly chills them to produce snow crystals, and then blasts them out in a glorious white arc of fresh powder, just begging for your tracks.
Snowmaking guns have long been a fixture of the ski resort and are regularly employed to keep thousands of skiers and snowboarders happy when there is a draught in snowfall. Traditionally, however, these machines can only operate when the air temperature is at a balmy 2°c.
How is SnowFactory different?
Housed in a pretty imposing container, the SnowFactory produces its ‘dry snow’ in a slightly different way. Rather than being blasted with compressed air, water is fed into its system and then a highly efficient heat exchanger (think of your refrigerator on steroids) rapidly freezes it to form dry ice flakes. The snow is then distributed via a conveyor belt to where it is needed. This process means that the SnowFactory can produce it’s snow at temperatures you’d expect at the beach rather than on the side of a mountain.
As this ‘dry snow’ doesn’t contain any residual moisture it takes longer to melt, which means we could soon start to see popular ski resorts, such as Val-d’Isère, Verbier, and St. Anton, using these bad boys well into the spring and early summer months to extend their ski seasons.
Check out the video to see how the SnowFactory works
Should you be packing your sunscreen for next year?
Don’t book your flights for June just yet! TechnoAlpin currently advises that the SnowFactory is not intended as a replacement for classic snow-making systems, but as an addition to them. To be used as a way to cover small sections of resorts for ski and snowboard events, such as ski races through towns, or at lower sections of resorts as the temperature starts to climb.
It was trialled toward the end of may at Boreal Mountain resort in California and is also being used to form a terrain park for their action sports camp throughout June and August, which is a very promising start. We hope this is just the start of things to come!
At $345,000 dollars they aren’t cheap but, as snow based action sports continues to increase in popularity, we can soon expect to see popular ski resorts cash in on demand and invest in this new bit of kit. Definitely, one to look forward to.
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