Special snow making machines which can produce snow in positive temperatures are seeing a rapid growth in sales around the world.
The machines have existed for around 20 years in various forms, and have commonly been used to make snow for events in urban areas and outside the ski season, but the past Northern Hemisphere ski season and the coming Southern Hemisphere one has seen a rapid growth in sales of the machines, in particular to low altitude resorts and ski areas located in areas where snowfall is not guaranteed, particularly at the start of the season.
The most popular machine is the ‘Snow Factory’ unit from Techno Alpin, but the units follow a similar model of making the snow within a refrigerated chamber (often resembling an articulated storage unit), before the snow is powered out through tubes.
So the snow is created in the cold before it is exposed to warmer outdoor temperatures and is still subject to thawing of course if temperatures are above freezing, the resort just has to keep topping up cover.
But most areas are using the machines to guarantee opening day snow, and to cover a limited area sometimes for snow fun like tubing or a nursery slope.
The machines have also been used to guarantee snow cover at Alpine World Cup events in Croatia.
In a few weeks’ time the machines will be working in Australia and New Zealand.
In the former several resorts including Mt Buller and Selwyn will guarantee snow on opening weekend (June 9-11) thanks to the new equipment – which is frequently difficult for them to do due to problematic early season snowfall/traditional snowmaking conditions in Australia; whilst in New Zealand Mt Ruapehu will be one of the first to open in the southern hemisphere, on June 3rd, thanks to its new system which it will use for a snow play/nursery slopes area.
My Buller has bought a Snow Factory (pictured arriving top), Selwyn have acquired a Canadian built machine called: SnöFlake 25
Some buyers have however fairly normal ski area snow conditions in winter and have bought their machines to extend their seasons. Boreal in California, which has a huge natural snow base this summer after big winter snowfalls, is one example buying a snows factory to make snow when the outdoor summer heart can hit 90F.
Some of the first all-weather snowmakers to find popularity with top ski resorts came from an Israeli based company, IDE Technologies, around a decade ago.
The company had no experience of or interest in snowmaking but was making a cooling system for a gold mine in South Africa and was surprised to discover a by-product of the system was snow (pictured above). It ended up producing large ‘All weather snowmaking’ units which were installed on the glaciers at Zermatt (here the unit was so big that parts of a house on the road up had to be temporarily demolished the replaced to get it up in to position) and at Pitztal in Austria, both primarily to guarantee fresh snow cover on their glaciers for late summer/early autumn skiing.