November 19. 2016
Fresh snow — when you want it!
By Diane Rudholm
Photo at right: A Snow Factory sits at the base of Boreal Mountain Resort, near Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California. Boreal debuted the Snow Factory last summer for its summer ski-training camps. Photo courtesy TechnoAlpin
The last two winters in the Pacific Northwest have been uncharacteristically warm, delaying opening days for resorts across the region and leaving snow lovers wishing for colder days.
If you count yourself among the snowy-eyed dreamers, then internationally renowned snowmaker TechnoAlpin has created amazing technology called Snow Factory.
Snow at 80 Degrees
Created in 2014 in Italy to meet the demand for snow during warm ski seasons or years of drought, the Snow Factory snow-making system fulfills a unique role in the market. It creates machine-made snow on demand in above freezing temperatures — we’re talking weather that’s potentially as hot as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Traditional snow-making technology requires air temperatures to be 28 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
This could bode especially well for resorts with low-altitude or small terrain (think snowboard parks and Nordic trails) that need to be ready on opening day, for late-season race training or for other special snow events that are planned months ahead of time.
The Snow Factory system comes in a temperature-regulated freight container — snow in a box, if you will — delivered directly to the ski hill or event site via a semi-truck.
Setup is relatively easy. Hook it up to a water supply and electricity, and voila! The water freezes inside cisterns located in the freight container to a chilly 23 degrees Fahrenheit with the help of a powerful cooling system.
The newly formed ice makes its way onto the landscape via conveyer belt or snow fan as a collection of beautiful frozen ice chips (not to be confused with snowflakes, which require a special combination of cold weather temperatures and humidity).
Ice chips consist of dryer and denser ice particles than snowflakes and can withstand higher temperatures for longer periods of time, thus providing snow cover in temperatures up to 80 degrees.
Although Snow Factory uses more electricity than traditional snow-making machines, it only requires a mere 12 gallons of water per minute compared to over 60 gallons for traditional snowmaking machines. It creates more than two tons of snow cover — roughly one foot of snow covering 16 tennis courts (or one acre) every 3–4 days. It does not utilize additives or chemicals, so when the snow melts, it’s purely water.
This machine-made snow can be continuously created for several weeks or until Mother Nature cools down enough for other snowmaking machines or clouds to do the heavy lifting.
Where to Find It
At press time, this leading edge technology had made its debut in at least 10 snow resorts in Europe. Snow Factory’s North America debut started successfully last summer at Boreal Mountain Resort on Donner Summit near Lake Tahoe, California for its summer ski-training camps.
At $250,000 per unit, installation at ski resorts may be slow, however, its convenience may start a trend that leaves Pacific Northwest skiers in deep snow despite the weather report.
Learn More about TechnoAlpin and Snow Factory at www.technoalpin.com/en-us
Diane Rudholm is a writer and illustrator living in Seattle. She’s looking forward to playing in snow — whether it be natural or manufactured — with her husband and kids this winter. Tweet @DianeBikes