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Artificial Production of Snow

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... In a different context, the availability of snow during the whole winter season is a prerequisite for tourism and the practice of winter sports on the mountains. Artificial snow produced by snow machines is used in the preparation of ski slopes and is obtained by the adiabatic cooling of high-pressure water sprays [2,3]. The cost of the produced snow is high: estimates range from~1.5 €/m 3 (including the installation and depreciation of the snow guns system and the energy cost) [4] to 5 €/m 3 (including the cost for slope preparation and maintenance and personnel) [3]. ...
... Artificial snow produced by snow machines is used in the preparation of ski slopes and is obtained by the adiabatic cooling of high-pressure water sprays [2,3]. The cost of the produced snow is high: estimates range from~1.5 €/m 3 (including the installation and depreciation of the snow guns system and the energy cost) [4] to 5 €/m 3 (including the cost for slope preparation and maintenance and personnel) [3]. The presently unavoidable fraction of liquid content (water) of artificial snow, as well as the snow quality, depend on the outdoor environmental conditions [5]. ...
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The current devices used to produce massive amounts of snow (i.e., snow machines) can be improved with concern to both the energy efficiency and the quality of snow. Here we investigate an alternative snow production method based on the ultrasonic nebulization of water and its subsequent condensation on the cold surfaces of a refrigerator. Inspection of the snow samples with a stereo optical microscope shows both dendritic and granular snow morphologies. The characterization of the samples by Raman spectroscopy shows a behavior consistent with that of a natural, low-density snow. Our results indicate that ultrasonic nebulization of water is an effective strategy for producing natural-like snow at the laboratory scale.
... Indeed, it is disturbed at two levels: during withdrawals, which modifies the volume of water present in the source, and during storage and production, which cause a temporary local water deficit. Moreover, almost 30% of the water can be lost through evaporation during the process [42]. The problem of limiting water consumption for snowmaking is becoming more and more serious [ 43 ]. ...
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Recovering water from waste water is increasingly used. It is a part of the circular economy, enabling saving water resources. The EU regulation to use reclaimed water to irrigate crops regulates the principles of appropriate water quality preparation and indicates the possibilities of its use. An important element of the regulation is the obligation to carry out a risk assessment as the basic tool to ensure safety in the use of reclaimed water. One of the uses of reclaimed water on green areas could be ski resorts producing artificial snow. The solution to produce artificial snow from reclaimed water is still not popular. No case realized in Europe could be found, although attempts were made in the Alps to implement such projects. Australia and the USA have the most experience. Despite the positive aspect of water recovery, there are questions about the impact of snow produced in this way on the environment and the safety of users. The first project to produce artificial snow using reclaimed water appeared in Polish ski resort Kasina. Its purpose is to feed the snow guns with water coming from the local waste water treatment plant. The quality parameters of water recovered as a result of MBR technology indicate that it meets the legal requirements; however, the plant operator did not receive a water permit. The solution may be to conduct a reliable risk assessment for this local solution.
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In this study, the snow conditions of South-Central Slovakia (InnerWestern Carpathians; temperate zone) were analyzed to assess the suitability for ski slope operations without snow production under 1000 m a.s.l. For the study site of the Košútka Ski Centre, meteorological conditions for snowmaking, snowpack characteristics, and snow water equivalent (SWE) compared with seasonal precipitation were identified. To identify the months suitable for snowmaking, the number of potential snowmaking days (PSD) and the required number of snowmaking days (RNSD) were calculated for six winter seasons from 2010-2011 to 2015-2016. The results showed that the conditions of natural snow cover were not appropriate for ski slope operation because of a low natural snow depth. For the Košútka Ski Centre, it was concluded that the essential base layer snowmaking for ski slope operation is possible only for a few days in the winter season because of the increasing mean value of the mean average daily temperature and the consequently higher occurrence of liquid precipitation in the winter season. Essential high snow production results in the heterogeneous distribution of snow on the ski slope, and in high snow depth, density, and SWE of the ski slope snowpack, and in prolonged melting.
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In the Mediterranean basin, the activity of ski resorts below 2000 m of altitude strongly affects grassland ecosystems because of the increasing use of artificial snow (AS). In a representative ski resort of central Apennines (Italy), we studied soil, vegetation and topographic variables of three adjacent grasslands: undisturbed grassland (UG), ski-runs with natural snow and ski-runs with amassed and AS. The winter temperature at the soil surface was colder in the ski-runs (even more in AS) than in the UG with an increase in dissolved organic matter and a biomass decrease. We identified 21 diagnostic species and 14 functional bioindicators linked to soil indicators like surface temperature and moisture. Conversely to observations made in the Alps and in other sites of the Apennines, we did not record any significant decrease in the floristic diversity between ski-runs and UG. Ski-run management aimed to prolong the snowpack duration-induced higher soil humidity and a short vegetative growth that produced a significant shift of the natural structure and composition of the grassland. To preserve key habitats for biodiversity, the construction and extension of ski resorts below the altitude of 2000 m should be avoided in the climatic belt of the Apennines.
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Mountains are specific ecosystems, characterised by their diversity and complexity (Messerli and Ives, 1997). Steep topographic, climatic and biological gradients combined with sharp seasonal contrasts favour the triggering of extreme climatic and geomorphic events, which may in turn strongly affect ecological and human environments (Ives and Messerli, 1989; Price, 1999; Beniston, 2002; Viviroli et al., 2007; Huggel et al., 2010; Korner, 2013). Mountain populations are quite diverse in their ...
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Les montagnes sont des ecosystemes specifiques, caracterises par une grande diversite et complexite (Messerli et Ives, 1997). Les gradients topographiques, climatiques et biologiques eleves se combinent a de forts contrastes saisonniers pour favoriser le declenchement d’evenements climatiques et geomorphologiques extremes, qui a leur tour peuvent fortement affecter les milieux ecologiques et humains (Ives et Messerli, 1989 ; Price, 1999 ; Beniston, 2002 ; Viviroli et al., 2007 ; Huggel et al....
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In the Alps, regional water balances are stressed by an imbalance between the distribution of naturally available water and the anthropogenic water demand. Due to the growing request for freshwater, water resources will have a tendency to decline in future which may cause impacts on water-related ecosystem services for the society. We use European-level statistics to model the alpine drinking water consumption rates of local residents and tourists using the Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics from Eurostat at two levels (NUTS 2 and NUTS 3). Using the spatial distribution of local residents and tourists as well as the compiled daily water consumption rates, we modelled the amount of water consumed between 1990 and 2008. In the Greater Alpine Region (GAR) water consumption rates from the population on NUTS 3 level increased from 8.3 million m3 per day during the 1990s to 11.2 million m3 per day in 2008. The water consumption rates of both residents and tourists show an increase in central southern areas of the GAR from 1990 to 2000. This trend continues to the south-western part of the GAR between 2000 and 2008. Thus, the drinking water consumption of inhabitants and tourists is highest in places where hydro-climate changes indicate trends of declining naturally available water resources.
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Winter tourism is highly sensitive to climate change. The sufficiently studied altitudinally dependent line of natural snow reliability is losing its relevance for skilift operators in Austria, where 59% of the ski area is covered by artificial snowmaking. But the diffusion of snowmaking facilities cannot be monocausally linked to climate change, as trends in tourism, prestige, and competitive advantage are important factors. Despite the fact that snowmaking is limited by climatological factors, skilift operators trust in technical improvements and believe the future will not be as menacing as assumed by recent climate change impact studies. The aim of the present study is to define reasons for the diffusion of snowmaking systems and to determine whether snowmaking can be a viable adaptation strategy despite ongoing warming, using a simple degree-day model. Results obtained with this method of assessing technical snow reliability show that current snowmaking intensity will not be sufficient to guarantee the desired 100-day season at elevations below 1500-1600 m. Snowmaking will still be possible climatically even at lower elevations, but the required intensification of capacity will lead to significantly higher operation costs.
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Increasing production of artificial snow in ski resorts is controversially discussed, but only few investigations have been carried out systematically to specify the environmental impacts. We measured snow depth and density from groomed ski pistes (runs) with compacted snow and their effects on ground temperatures and timing of snowmelt. We analyzed groomed pistes with and without artificial snow (10 each) as well as adjacent ungroomed off-piste control plots beside the piste. On pistes with natural snow, the thin and compacted snow cover led to severe and long lasting seasonal soil frost. On pistes with artificial snow, soil frost occurred less frequently because of increased insulation due to the greater snow depth. However, due to the greater snow mass, the beginning of the snow- free season was delayed by more than 2 wk. Average winter ground temperatures under a continuous snow cover were decreased by approximately 18C on both piste types compared with off-piste control plots. The results suggest that the heat balance of alpine soils is changed by both piste types, either by an extensive heat loss on pistes with natural snow or by prolonged snow cover on pistes with artificial snow.
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Snow properties such as snow density will likely change in a warmer climate. Changes in depth and extent of snow cover have been shown to affect soil nutrient dynamics and plant growth; however, effects of a changed snow density have so far not been explicitly tested. We altered snow properties (especially depth and density according to those found on ski runs) and investigated effects on soil temperatures, soil nitrogen mineralization, plant phenology, and productivity. A denser, thinner snow cover led to reduced soil insulation and lower soil temperatures, which consequently increased net N mineralization. A denser snow cover furthermore resulted in a delay in plant phenology of up to five weeks after melt-out. The results suggest that changes in snow density, which have been largely neglected in the global change discussion until now, can cause significant changes in soil and vegetation processes.
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Earlier studies have indicated that the soil on groomed ski slopes may be subjected to more pronounced cooling than the soil below a natural snowpack. We ana-lyzed the thermal impacts of ski-slope preparation in a sub-alpine ski resort in central Switzerland (1100 m a.s.l.) where artificial snow was produced. Physical snow properties and soil temperature measurements were carried out on the ski slope and off-piste during winter 1999/2000. The numerical soil^vegetation^atmosphere transfer model COUP was run for both locations, with a new option to simulate the snowpack development on a groomed ski slope. Snow density, snow hardness and thermal conductivity were signifi-cantly higher on the ski slope than in the natural snowpack. However, these differences did not affect the cooling of the soil, since no difference was observed between the ski slope and the natural snow cover. This might be because cold periods were rare and short and thus any snowpack could protect the soil from freezing. The major impact of the ski-slope grooming was a 4 week delay in snowmelt and soil warming at the end of the season. The newly implemented option proved to be a useful strategy for simulating the snowpack of a ski slope. However, snow density was underestimated by the model as it could not account adequately for compaction due to grooming traffic. Our study demonstrates that there is no site-independent answer as to whether a groomed snowpack affects the thermal condi-tions in the soil.
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1. Ski resorts increasingly affect alpine ecosystems through enlargement of ski pistes, machine-grading of ski piste areas and increasing use of artificial snow. 2. In 12 Swiss alpine ski resorts, we investigated the effects of ski piste management on vegetation structure and composition using a pairwise design of 38 plots on ski pistes and 38 adjacent plots off-piste. 3. Plots on ski pistes had lower species richness and productivity, and lower abundance and cover of woody plants and early flowering species, than reference plots. Plots on machine-graded pistes had higher indicator values for nutrients and light, and lower vegetation cover, productivity, species diversity and abundance of early flowering and woody plants. Time since machine-grading did not mitigate the impacts of machine-grading, even for those plots where revegetation had been attempted by sowing. 4. The longer artificial snow had been used on ski pistes (2–15 years), the higher the moisture and nutrient indicator values. Longer use also affected species composition by increasing the abundance of woody plants, snowbed species and late-flowering species, and decreasing wind-edge species. 5. Synthesis and applications. All types of ski piste management cause deviations from the natural structure and composition of alpine vegetation, and lead to lower plant species diversity. Machine-grading causes particularly severe and lasting impacts on alpine vegetation, which are mitigated neither by time nor by revegetation measures. The impacts of artificial snow increase with the period of time since it was first applied to ski piste vegetation. Extensive machine-grading and snow production should be avoided, especially in areas where nutrient and water input are a concern. Ski pistes should not be established in areas where the alpine vegetation has a high conservation value.
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A field and laboratory study on the effect of natural snow meltwaters and artificial snow meltwaters on the germination of the seeds of two species of tree (yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton) and white spruce (Picea glauca)) was carried out at Mont-Sainte-Anne, a ski resort, northeast of Quebec City, Canada. A survey of ground cover was also completed on transects between slopes covered with natural snow and those covered with both artificial and natural snow. The results of the laboratory study suggest that the chemical composition of the artificial snow meltwaters does not play a major role in the germination of yellow birch and white spruce. However, the rate of growth subsequent to germination may be affected as the results of the ground cover survey indicate that some plants prefer the edge of the ski slope with artificial snow to natural snow and vice versa.
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Among tourist activities in the Alps, winter sports have a prominent role because of the large scale of changes they cause at the habitat and landscape level. We have analysed whether ski resorts lead to significant threats to the avian diversity in the coniferous forests of the western Italian Alps, by comparing the bird communities of plots located in (1) the forest interior, (2) forest at the edge of ski-runs and (3) forest at the edge of pastures (the latter two are anthropogenic elements of forest fragmentation). Ski-runs produce a negative edge effect in the study forests: plots at their edges present lower bird species richness and Shannon diversity than those located in the forest interior or at the edges of pastures. In particular, birds typical of ecotone habitats seem to favour forest plots set at the edge of pastures. Ski-run-edges are linear landscape features that create high contrast edges; conversely, vegetation structure is more complex at the edge of pastures, attracting a rich and diverse avifauna. In the study area, pastures tend to be abandoned whereas winter sport resorts are increasing in extent. Accordingly, there is a need for coordinated management and cooperation between sport- and land-management agencies, in order to preserve native biodiversity while simultaneously managing land for sport activities.
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Mountain regions throughout the world face intense development pressures associated with recreational and tourism uses. Despite these pressures, much of the research on bio-geophysical impacts of humans in mountain regions has focused on the effects of natural resource extraction. This paper describes findings from the first 3 years of a study examining high elevation watershed processes in a region undergoing alpine resort development. Our study is designed as a paired-watershed experiment. The Ranch Brook watershed (9·6 km2) is a relatively pristine, forested watershed and serves as the undeveloped ‘control’ basin. West Branch (11·7 km2) encompasses an existing alpine ski resort, with approximately 17% of the basin occupied by ski trails and impervious surfaces, and an additional 7% slated for clearing and development. Here, we report results for water years 2001–2003 of streamflow and water quality dynamics for these watersheds. Precipitation increases significantly with elevation in the watersheds, and winter precipitation represents 36–46% of annual precipitation. Artificial snowmaking from water within West Branch watershed currently augments annual precipitation by only 3–4%. Water yield in the developed basin exceeded that in the control by 18–36%. Suspended sediment yield was more than two and a half times greater and fluxes of all major solutes were higher in the developed basin. Our study is the first to document the effects of existing ski area development on hydrology and water quality in the northeastern US and will serve as an important baseline for evaluating the effects of planned resort expansion activities in this area. Published in 2007 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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The production of artificial snow and the use of snow additives in ski resorts have increased considerably during the last 20 years. Their ecological consequences are the subject of environmental concerns. This review compiles studies about the ecological implications of ski pistes preparation in general and of artificial snow production. The main direct impacts of ski piste preparation on the vegetation are related to the compaction of the snow cover, namely the induction of soil frost, the formation of ice layers, mechanical damage and a delay in plant development. The vegetation reacts with changes in species composition and a decrease in biodiversity. Artificial snowing modifies some of these impacts: The soil frost is mitigated due to an increased insulation of the snowpack, whereas the formation of ice layers is not considerably changed. The mechanical impacts of snow-grooming vehicles are mitigated due to the deeper snow cover. The delay of the vegetation development is enhanced by a considerably postponed snowmelt. Furthermore, artificial snowing induces new impacts to the alpine environment. Snowing increases the input of water and ions to ski pistes, which can have a fertilising effect and hence change the plant species composition. Increasingly, snow additives, made of potentially phytopathogenic bacteria, are used for snow production. They enhance ice crystal formation due to their ice nucleation activity. Although sterilised, additives affected the growth of some alpine plant species in laboratory experiments. Salts are applied not only but preferably on snowed pistes to improve the snow quality for ski races. The environmental impacts of most salts have not yet been investigated, but a commonly used nitrate salt has intense fertilising properties. Although snowing mitigates some of the negative impacts of ski piste preparation in general, new impacts induced by snowing could be non-beneficial to the vegetation, which, however, has yet to be clarified.