11 December 2014

Snow Management

Text: Susanne Heinlein

Snow is the be-all and end-all for the winter sports industry. However, because of climate change, the era of a guaranteed snowy season is long gone in most ski areas. As a result, ever higher-lying pistes are being developed, using glaciers and artificial snow, none of which can happen without far-reaching encroachments on the ecosystem. It is a sensitive topic in which the interests of economics, environmental protection and politics often collide. Companies and research institutes are currently working on solutions to enable skiing businesses to operate reliably, sustainably and ecologically.


When planning to use snow-making equipment, its technical qualities play a crucial role. Energy and water consumption can be markedly reduced using special systems, as can the burden on the environment. An important aspect here is measuring the depth of the snow. Whereas a few years ago, spot checks had to be made using a drill, now snow groomers themselves are used as a measuring device and are constantly supplying current data. For this, their position is determined using GPS within the terrain that is digitally stored allowing the thickness of the snow below to be deducted having taken the vehicle height into account. This allows a constantly up-to-date profile to be produced showing where larger snowfalls are available for redistributing, where the snow coverage is becoming sparser and where it makes sense to use artificial snow. The systems allows the snow vehicle fleet to be monitored and co-ordinated so that with optimally adjusted routing, fuel consumption can be minimised. 


The first system manufactured, which continues to be the market leader today, is Arena Pistenmanagement from the Austrian company, Power GIS. An important difference from other products is its real time networking of all on-board computers and monitoring stations. A central server permanently supplies all components in operation with current data via a cloud so that the processes can be cross-checked against each other at any time. The snow machines automatically produce the snow only if it is necessary according to the system. In addition to providing hardware and software, the priority of Power GIS is in the area of service which includes an academy (Pisten Management) and the teaching of application know-how within a centre of competence.


Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, the manufacturer based in Swabia, offers a complete solution for piste vehicles and piste management: the Pistenbully can be fitted with the Snowsat system ex works. The focus here is on the optimal usability for the end consumer, in this case the driver and the piste and snow-coverage manager. Attention was paid to providing a managable and easy-to-use user interface in the form of a touch screen which can be used even when driving showing all important information and the current situation of the ski area at a glance. Technoalpin (↗ form 257 p. 18) allows the Snowsat to be networked with the snow-making equipment’s control system. In addition, Kässbohrer is working on a particularly reliable and extensive snow depth measurement which is available in centimetre precision across the entire ski area.


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