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World First: Pitztal Glacier uses technology from Israel

Lagt til av: Espen Børresen | publisert: 29.09.2009

Snow production regardless of temperature, humidity, and wind. The Pitztal Glacier sparkles with a technical novelty, setting a new benchmark for a future-proof and environmentally-friendly use of the highest glacier ski area in Austria. The IDE All Weather Snowmaker – an innovation from Israel – makes it possible for the first time to produce snow without having to depend on TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY, and WIND.

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IDE snowmaker ©
The IDE All Weather Snowmaker can produce snow in above-zero temperatures without chemical additives. The innovation comes from Israel and will help to guarantee sustainable ski tourism on the Pitztal Glacier and to improve the quality of the slopes at the beginning and the end of the season. This will mean that a large number of pistes will be open for skiing already in autumn. The artificial snow cover forms a buffer layer on top of the ice and prevents glacial erosion and damage to the essential hard ice crust by solar radiation.

Ecological and future-proof
"Over recent years, temperature, humidity, and wind conditions on the Pitztal Glacier were often not right in early autumn for producing normal snowfall", explained Dr. Hans Rubatscher, Manager of the Pitztal Glacier Railway. "We were therefore looking for an innovative alternative – and found the IDE All Weather Snowmaker in Israel."

In the future, the Snowmaker will be used alongside the existing snowmaking equipment with canons and lances, in particular at the start of the season in autumn and in late spring. This brings numerous benefits to the Pitztal Glacier. The first objective is, of course, to optimize the quality of the pistes. In addition, it will allow opening the slope section by the base station of the Pitz-Panorama Railway (2,850 m above sea level) at an earlier date. This is particularly beneficial for many international World Cup racers as an optimum slalom training course can be made available by the Gletschersee railway very early in the season. This is already showing signs of success: Several ski teams have expressed great interest in this special facility at the Pitztal Glacier.

With traditional snowmaking systems, the temperature has to be at least minus 6 degrees Celsius and the humidity no more than 60 percent. The wind is also important if snow canons and lances are to be used economically. With the IDE Snowmaker, these factors don't come into the equation. "Even though the Snowmaker does not depend on the temperature, we will use the snow production facility sensibly and will not create an artificial spectacle with snow in the summer. For us it is important to pursue our philosophy of sustainable ecological and economical use of this unique ski region."

After gaining experience, concrete attempts will be made to use the snow created by the Snowmaker to preserve the substance of the glacier in Austria's highest glacier ski area. "In early autumn, the snow created can be used as a protective cover over the substance of the glacier", says Hans Rubatscher.

Extensive preparation, intelligent integration
This system, which produces snow directly on the slope at any temperature and without chemical additives, was installed in the Pitztal for the first time in Europe and at the same time as in Zermatt (Switzerland). The 15m high production tower for the snow has been set up in its own building at an altitude of 2,840m right by the base station of the Pitz Panorama Railway. The snow produced here can be channeled directly onto the slopes below by the Gletschersee chair lift – just in time for the start of the ski season in mid-September.

The water for this innovative snow production system will be extracted using a vacuum system from the existing storage pools on the Pitztal Glacier. These pools are filled exclusively with melted glacier water, thus forming an ecological cycle on the glacier. The "Snowmaker system" can produce approximately 950 cubic metres of snow in 24 hours whatever the outside temperature, humidity, and wind speed, and is highly energy-efficient. The electrical load for the system is similar to a mid-sized chair lift, the electrical power consumption is approximately 500 KW, exactly the same as 6 standard snow cannons, however, the snow quality of the cannons is, in our experience, highly variable. Thus the Pitztal Glacier is also setting a new benchmark with regard to efficient usage of the energy required for snow-making systems.

"We are actually talking about snow here", emphasizes Dr. Hans Rubatscher, "it was often assumed that the Snowmaker produces crushed ice. Far from it: The snow quality is excellent." The snow is transported from the production site to the slope below using a plastic chute, with piste vehicles then preparing it for skiing.

Chemistry-free production
Even though the IDE Snowmaker will be producing snow on the Pitztal Glacier regardless of temperature, no chemicals at all are used by the innovative vacuum technology. Thus the system meets all requirements to easily obtain approval for setting up a snowmaking system, bearing in mind that the approval guidelines in the Tyrol are amongst the strictest in the world.

There is another advantage to using the IDE Snowmaker. All snow that falls on the Pitztal Glacier in autumn will remain in place as the ground has been prepared with the Snowmaker snow, and can be used for piste preparation. This too is proof of environmental awareness on the Pitztal Glacier!

Snow from Israel
The IDE Group is the world market-leader in the construction of seawater-desalination plants and supplies cooling technologies for gold and diamond mines. The company, which is known throughout the world, welcomes the Pitztal Glacier as a bold investor who has recognized the future prospects of the IDE All Weather Snowmaker at an early stage. The system has undergone thorough testing in Israel and has been transported to the Tyrol by ship and road. Construction time was six months. "We are very proud to have found a partner in the most innovative glacier ski area in Austria so that future-oriented projects like these can be implemented", adds Felix Viehauser from IDE Snowmaker.



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