Snowfactory - a look at its development and future
TechnoAlpin started developing Snowfactory some 5 years ago. The first machine went into operation in Winterberg in 2014. A lot has happened since then: 16 machines will be in operation around the world, from California to Vietnam, for the 2016/2017 winter season. Obviously, the technology has come a long way. Benjamin Pötz, Snowfactory Product Manager, talks about the snow gun for above-zero temperatures, its development and future.
Snowfactory also makes snow at above-zero temperatures. Where and what is Snowfactory most often used for?
Benjamin Pötz: “Snowfactory is an adjunct to traditional snow-making. That means it’s used as a kind of top-up when a snow-making system has reached the limits of its capability.
The machine is especially popular at biathlon centers, where a lot can be achieved with relatively little snow. Complete cross-country trails can be prepared with Snowfactory snow in a very short time.
The snow gun for above-zero temperature is used at various kinds of events. Snowfactory always attracts the crowds, whether at ski-resort events or in cities. People get excited about the snow, children have snowball fights, and you can even catch some adults gleefully making snow angels in the fresh snow. Snowfactory has turned out to be a good investment for encouraging ski sports.
Snowfactory is also suitable for covering some beginners’ sections of slopes. The machine has great potential in combination with snow farming. Last year, ski resorts in Northern Europe were even able to open for business in November because with the help of Snowfactory and snow storage, they had enough snow for complete slopes.”
Research and development is very important at TechnoAlpin. What technical progress has Snowfactory made since its introduction?
Benjamin Pötz: “”Energy efficiency is a top priority at TechnoAlpin. We’re constantly improving our products and taking them to the next level. The same is true for Snowfactory, of course. If you compare machines from 2014 and 2016, energy consumption has fallen by 15% and more, depending on the model. All machines are also integrated into the ATASSplus and Liberty control systems, so they can be operated easily and automatically. This allows energy efficiency to be combined with traditional snow-making and controlled from a single system.”
For the 2016/17 winter season, there will be 16 machines in use in 11 countries. What are the forecasts for future demand?
Benjamin Pötz: “In 2014, we started with the first installation in Winterberg. That was a great success because interest in snow guns for above-zero temperatures was growing noticeably. At the time, we detected a very positive trend in demand and expect several more projects in coming years. Currently, 16 machines are being used in 11 countries around the world. Snowfactory could well open up new markets in addition to those such as Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Norway and Sweden, where we already operate. This year a machine will be installed at a shopping center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There, the purpose of Snowfactory is mainly to introduce people to snow. In these “exotic” markets, people have rarely or never even seen real snow and get really excited, of course. Snowfactory produces not only snow but also enjoyment.”
How important is Snowfactory for TechnoAlpin?
Benjamin Pötz: “Our main focus has always been on traditional artificial snow-making. Snowfactory is by no means suitable for every ski resort because not every resort has the same requirements. However, the machine is important for our product portfolio. Our customers can find the right, top-quality snow gun, whatever their needs. Even if Snowfactory only accounts for a very small percentage of total sales, its value is very significant for TechnoAlpin: it brings people fun in the snow and so motivates them to take up skiing.”