With less than a week to go to the World-Cup Opener in DÃ¼sseldorf, the organizers are working hard to prepare a perfect ski trail. This is no mean feat in October. So how is it possible to have snow this early in Central Europe?
We did a bit of research and found out that it is the result of a high-tech operation involving a climate controlled dome, snow science, and a lot of manpower. The organizers are touting the environmentally friendly nature of the operation. We certainly applaud them for their efforts in this regard, but it is important to note that even with such efforts, this is nowhere near a carbon-neutral undertaking.
The Snowmaking Process
Only a few other cities offer a 100% snow-guarantee. At the end of October there WILL be snow on the banks of the Rhine River. Since Mother Nature cannot be counted on, Mr. Snow has been hired for the event. â€œMr. Snow,â€ also known as Peter Promegger, the chief-technician of the ski dome Neuss (Jever Skihalle), is responsible for the entire snow-making operation and the preparation of the ski trail.
The World Cup snow is made 14 meters above the ground inside the climate controlled ski dome. Installed at this height are twelve snow cannons that produce extremely fine fog from pure drinking-water (no chemicals added). Supported by the air temperature of the ski dome (-4Â° Celsius), the fog crystallizes to fine snow when it falls to the ground. To keep a high snow quality in the ski dome, the floor in Jever Skihalle Neuss is cooled by a cleverly designed system of pipes that ensures a constant snow temperature of -17 degrees. The result of all this is a snow that forms and falls in a manner that produces a more “powder-like” snow. This unique snowmaking system is relatively eco-friendly regarding energy consumption â€” energy usage is comparable to that of a swimming pool.
The most challenging part of the process is transporting the snow to the race site â€” DÃ¼sseldorf’s Old Town. Snow is first transported outside the ski dome using a snow cat and then loaded into trucks. Starting on Thursday the 25th, five trucks will shuttle snow from the ski dome in Neuss to the banks of the Rhine River. Only trucks with the latest emission technology are used — all are fueled with bio-diesel. The 3,000 cubic meters of snow are made from 1,500 cubic meters of water, which corresponds to the capacity of a 50m swimming pool.
Upon arriving at the race-site, the snow is delivered to intermediate stores, the so-called snow depot, at the lower waterfront. Covers protect the snow against rain or direct sunlight. Starting on Friday, Snow Cats will spread the snow across the entire World Cup course, where snow technicians and instructors at the ski school will assist with the manual preparation of the trail.
Another important aspect is the drainage system. It was developed by the technicians from the Jever Skihalle Neuss to avoid puddles on the World Cup track if the weather conditions are unfavorable. Pads with holes are placed underneath the snow layer to ensure that melting water drains off during high temperatures. Without this precaution, the water would cause even more snow to melt.
Good Snow = Good Skiing = 100% Guarantee
When the snow leaves the ski dome, it has a temperature of -10Âº to -14Âº Celsius. Due to this cold temperature, the fine structure, and a very high compression after the completion of the course, the snow insulates itself. This effect is magnified by the final snow-pack depth of 30 cm. Even at high temperatures the snow melts slowly. The FIS World Cup Opener in DÃ¼sseldorf is one of the few snow-safe venues on the World Cup calendar. â€œThe snow-safety in DÃ¼sseldorf is so high that we did not have to name an alternative venue in the contract with the International Ski Federation (FIS). Normally, FIS requires a second option in case of snow shortage â€œ says August Pollen, head of the DÃ¼sseldorf organizing committee.
On Sunday evening, when the World Cup races and the snow events are over, the snow is piled next to the Rhine. The melting water is free of chemicals as the snow consists of pure drinking-water.