If the only reason you’re worried about global warming is that it will mean a shorter ski season, you can go ahead and buy that petrol-guzzling SUV you’ve been eyeing. A new type of snow machine can churn out the white stuff when it’s as hot as 32C out, and it uses way less water in the process.
Photo by Shutter Stock/Volodymyr Baleha
An Italian company called TechnoAlpin has developed a new kind of snow-making machine called the a Snowfactory that can operate at temperatures well above -2C, which is the upper limit for existing machines. The ideal temperature range for the machine is somewhere between -2C and 23C. It can still operate in higher temperatures, but the snow won’t last as long.
The machine, which lives inside a giant insulated steel shipping container, uses large refrigerated cylinders to create ice crystals which are harvested by a conveyor belt that delivers them to plows or cannons for dispersion. The Snowfactory does use as much as five times more energy than a traditional snow machine, but much less water. It only needs upwards of 68L of H2O every minute, compared to 400L for older snow-making techniques.
Blanketing an entire ski resort in snow at the peak of summer using the Snowfactory is most likely an incredibly expensive venture since it would have to be kept running all day and night to stay ahead of it all melting. But it could allow resorts to extend their season by a month or so, or facilitate smaller events like trick competitions during the off-season.