Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Armed and dangerous: the winter snow guns

Expand Messages
  • Mike Neuman
    Armed and dangerous: the winter snow guns By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid 07 January 2007 It s deep winter, the season when smart Europeans strap their skis to the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2007
      Armed and dangerous: the winter snow guns
      By Elizabeth Nash in Madrid
      07 January 2007

      It's deep winter, the season when smart Europeans strap their skis to
      the 4x4 and head for the Alps or Pyrenees to enjoy an exhilarating
      swoosh down the slopes - accompanied by the rumble and waste of the
      artificial snow machine.

      The snow gun, which sprays these still-green slopes with the fluffy
      white stuff nature is increasingly reluctant to provide, has become
      as much a fixture of the winter sports scene as the chair lift, but
      much more environmentally damaging.

      An estimated 98 per cent of Europe's ski resorts now have snow
      makers, and some places are totally dependent on fake flakes. Without
      these groaning monsters that belch fake snow from one end while
      consuming huge amounts of power at the other, no ski resort in the
      Catalan Pyrenees would have opened this season.

      The use of snow cannons has doubled in the past 10 years. More than
      2,000 machines were working the Catalan pistes at the start of this
      season - 547 of them in the resort of Baqueira Beret- whitening 280km
      of runs.

      But the energy used to keep the machines spewing snow has tripled.
      Catalonia's nine main ski regions have contracted some 9,000kW of
      electricity to keep their business alive - enough to power a town of
      15,000 people. Some resorts face bills of €300,000 (£200,000) to keep
      snow on the ground. That's after paying €10,000 for each cannon.

      This squandering of power has been forced upon Catalonia by the lack
      of snow, which threatens one of Spain's most important economic
      sectors: the high-end tourism market. This year is worse than before -
      with visitor numbers down 50 per cent - not only because of the mild
      winter, but what cold air there is lacks precipitation and hence
      snow. This means thirsty snow machines must draw on water from
      depleted lakes and reservoirs.

      The campaigners Ecologists in Action say it's a vicious circle: lack
      of snow increases the use of machines, which boosts the emission of
      CO2, increases global warming and makes the snow even scarcer.

      Jose Enrique Vazquez, an environmental expert, says resorts could
      curb energy waste if they installed renewable systems. So next time
      you sweep down the snowy Pyrenees, watch out for wind turbines among
      the cable cars.

      POWDER FACTS

      * Americans Wayne Pierce, Art Hunt and Dave Richey created the first
      snow machine in 1950.

      * The average Alpine resort has 100-200 snow machines, but in the
      Dolomites it can be up to 300 or more.

      * Snow guns typically run for 1,000 hours a year using 18kW an hour.
      * A resort with 300 machines uses 5.4m kW a year.
      http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2132573.ece
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.