According to studies, snow reliability is the number one criterion when it comes to choosing a winter sports destination. They also show that just 20% of visitors will accept extras or hotel services by way of compensation for insufficient snow. Especially when planning a skiing holiday well in advance, winter sports enthusiasts will choose the skiing destination that can offer guaranteed snow for the dates in question using snow-making equipment. Guaranteed snow is also a deciding factor for potential investors. Besides providing direct added value for ski resorts (cable cars, ski schools), technical snow also forms the basis for indirect value creation in entire regions (hotels and restaurants in the surrounding area, indoor swimming pools, shops, etc.).
Like natural snow, technical snow consists of nothing more than water and air. In the case of mechanical production using lances and fan guns, natural snowfall is imitated. The so-called nucleators produce a hydrogen-air mixture that expands in the atmosphere, allowing nuclides (= snow cores) to emerge. At the same time, the nozzles atomize water into fine droplets, which combine with the nuclides and freeze into small snow crystals on their way down to the ground. The main requirements for technical snow production are the lowest possible air temperature and humidity. The combination of both variables results in the so-called wet-bulb temperature, used by snow-making technicians all around the world. Water temperature too plays an important role in snow-making, and ideally should be slightly above freezing point.
No. Snow-making techniques imitate the way in which natural snow is produced, and the snow which is generated consists only of water and air. It's the same as natural snow, water is simply transformed into another physical state.
In the same way as natural snow, machine made snow consists exclusively of the elements water and air. The only difference is that machine made snow is produced by a machine. It is therefore incorrect to talk of “synthetic snow”. Synthetic snow is in fact plastic or polystyrene snow made for the theater or films. The correct term for snow made from snow-making equipment is “machine made snow” or “man made snow”.
We distinguish between two different types of snow gun: Fan guns and snow lances. The snow generation principle is the same for both types of device, the difference lies in the amount of snow produced, the cost and the application range. Selecting the most suitable snow gun depends on the hillside orientation, temperature, slope width, amount of snow required, gradient of the terrain, wind situation and air circulation. The mountain’s individual characteristics must be taken into account. Both fan guns and snow lances are available as manually adjustable or fully automated models. Both types can produce a range of different snow qualities (from completely dry to wet).
Fan guns are propeller-driven machines, sometimes referred to colloquially as snow cannons. For many years, only mobile fan guns were used. As snow making technology developed, stationary installations were implemented to avoid set-up times. Fan guns are characterized by a long projection, high snow output, low wind sensitivity and flexible use. Therefore they are mainly used on wide slopes, in areas with a high demand for snow, steep terrain or open areas exposed to wind.
Snow lances generate snow in the same way as fan guns but at a greater height (by means of lance tubes). Current lance tubes measure up to 9 meters in length. The drop height is required to crystallize the snow flake, because as opposed to the fan gun, there is no propeller, or turbine. This means that projection distances are much shorter and wind sensitivity is greater. The quantity of snow produced by a lance is similar to that of a small fan gun. Lances are generally used as complete systems, equipped with a central pneumatic system.
ATASSplus is an intelligent software package which is used to operate and control snow-making systems. The ATASSplus software collects data from snow guns and meteostations and optimizes the production of snow accordingly. The entire system can be controlled with a few clicks of the mouse. Efficient use of resources is guaranteed by water and air management and energy control. The software has been developed and written by TechnoAlpin.
A fully automatic T60 is worth the same as a middle-of-the-range station wagon.
Products from different generations are now being operated side by side in many ski resorts. The M90 fan gun has had a successful track record for over 20 years and continues to be operated alongside the latest models. The reinvestment in snow guns is more a question of technology and efficiency than a lack of functional efficiency.
All TechnoAlpin snow guns are assembled at the headquarters in Bolzano (South Tyrol, Italy). Over the past 20 years, 20,000 snow guns have been sold to over 1,000 customers in more than 40 countries across the world. About 40 fan guns are produced in a 40-hour week.
The cost of producing one cubic meter of snow depends on the local conditions in any individual case, such as water supply, pumping capacity, reservoirs, snow conditions, depreciation of the system, etc. Trade publications estimate a figure of 3.5 – 5 euro/m³.
The wet bulb temperature is the temperature most relevant to snow generation. It is a combination of the air temperature in °Celsius or °Fahrenheit and the relative atmospheric humidity in %. It corresponds to the temperature reading on a thermometer when its mercury bulb is moistened with water. If the atmospheric humidity is very low, the moisture evaporates quickly and draws a great deal of heat from the mercury column. The thermometer reading is then lower than the actual air temperature. The atmospheric humidity has a much greater effect on the wet bulb temperature. The damper the air, the less moisture it can absorb and the colder it must be to form snow crystals from the fine droplets of water. The lower the atmospheric humidity, therefore, the easier it is for water to evaporate from the surface of the atomized water and cool down the drop.
TechnoAlpin is working hard to enable the generation of technical snow even at difficult marginal or borderline temperatures.
TechnoAlpin has been building over 2,000 snow guns a year since 2005. The figure in 2010 was about 2,600 snow guns. The numbers of lances and fan guns are roughly the same.