New research: Temperature independent snow production systems can be significantly improved

Snow for the future research project shows that there are large differences between the different temperature independent snowmaking systems, and that they all can be significantly improved. Read more here.

Prinoth releasing full electric as well as hydrogen powered grooming machines

The Italian based grooming machine company recently released its much anticipated fully electric groomer Husky eMOTION with a 190 kWh battery capably of 3 hours of runtime with a torque of 1140 Nm.

At the same time, the company also released its hydrogen powered machine Leitwolf h2MOTION. The hydrogen powered machine is capable of 544HP and 2300Nm of torque with a 4 hour run time.

See our partner FIS web site for further information.

Will using excess heat for snowproduction save the ski season in the future?

Climate changes will lead to warmer temperatures and less natural snow.  A likely consequence is that it will become more difficult to provide good conditions for snow sports.  The ski season may even disappear in many typical “snow villages”.  Since the traditional snow production method using snow lances or fan-guns require temperature below zero degrees Celsius, many locations, especially at low elevation, may not be able to use this method in the future.

Temperature indepedent snow production

One alternative is to use technologies that can produce snow in warm temperatures, so called temperature independent snow production.  Today there are several providers of this technology, and it is used in several places around the World.  The systems are costly, and require that the snow is distributed since the production takes places in a central location.  Compared with traditional snow production, the technology demands up to 50 times more energy, which leads to high electric bills.

One solution for reducing the operational costs is to replace the electricity with heat as the energy source by using refrigeration technology driven by heat (for example absorption refrigerators).  To produce snow using heat requires temperatures of around 90 – 100°C.  Compared to using electricity, heat-driven cooling is relatively inefficient, since large parts of the heat can not be utilized.  To be economical, such a solution is therefore dependent on being able to use cheap or free excess heat.  This will also contribute to reducing the environmental footprint compared to snow making using electricity.

Potential heat sources

In Norway, studies have shown that one can find considerable amount of unused excess heat, especially in industry and waste incineration.  In the industry there is potentially up to 10 TWh of available heat at the right temperature range, while for incineration about 1 TWh is not utilized for district heating due to low demand in the summer.  Making use of heat from these sources is however not without challenges.  The low temperature of the district heating in the summer makes it difficult to use for snow production, and external use of excess heat from the industry is demanding and not common.  Both cases will require relatively expensive heat exchange equipment for both user and provider, as well as pipes for transporting the heat between the two.

  • District heating (also known as heat networks or teleheating) is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralized location through a system of insulated pipes for residential and commercial heating requirements.

Co-location of venues and heat sources

Snow production using heat as the energy source for snow production, it is advantageous that the heat source and the ski location is within a short distance; neither heat nor snow can be transported efficiently over long distances.  In Norway, the co-location of winter sport venues for Cross-Country biathlon, ski jumping and alpine, and potential heat sources has been mapped.  This shows that 76 out of 168 mapped venues are located in a municipality with district heating or available excess heat from industry. For many of these venues increased snow production would lead to increase skiing since they are located in densely populated areas or are already popular ski destination venues.

Based on calculations with Granåsen, Trondheim as model example, an annual consumption of 1,5 GWh for snow production would contribute to lengthening the ski season with more than 1 month by being able to snow cover the stadium, 3 km of courses and the ski jumps.  At the same time, the calculations showed that different factors can significantly alter the energy requirements.  The model calculations will therefore be unique for each venue.

Further work

The text above is a summary of a research project by SINTEF (author: Ole Marius Moen – ole.moen@sintef.no).  The project can be categorized as a mapping task, where the focus has been to find:

  • Which heat-driven cooling technologies exist and can be used for snow production?
  • How much energy will heat-driven snow production require?
  • What are the potential sources of heat?
  • Which winter sport venues (in Norway) can potentially use this type of snow production technology?

It is suggested that further research focuses on large venues with existing nearby district heating.  Techno-economic analyses to demonstrate each individual venue’s potential may tell us if heat-driven snow production is a practical, economical and sustainable solution for future winter sports.

  • Technoeconomic assessment or Technoeconomic analysis (abbreviated TEA) is a methodology framework to analyze the technical and economic performance of a process, product or service. TEA normally combines process modeling, engineering design and economic evaluation.

China’s Olympic and Paralympic venue in operational mode

The new 2022 Olympic and Paralympic venue for ski-jumping, biathlon and Cross-Country is producing snow as if the Olympics and Paralympics were taking place this year.  Although the international World Cup test events are cancelled due to Covid-19, and no international athletes are able to test the courses, shooting range and jumping hills, the Olympic and Paralympic organizer and venue owner are working towards a competition ready venue by the end of this year.

The brand new and complicated snow production system must be tested, and the operational staff must gain experience in making and grooming the snow in the most efficient way.

The three stadiums for jumping, biathlon and Cross-Country are within a 2 km half-circle, and the traditional snow production system is operated centrally with a capacity of 900 m3 water per hour.  A 200 000 m3 reservoir is full due to the heavy rain this summer, and 200 hydrants are strategically placed around the courses and jumping hills such that approximately 50 fan-guns and snow-lances can be moved to produce snow on two ski-jumps and about 20 km of courses.

Due to the cold and dry weather conditions (the venue is at ca. 1600 m/5300 ft above sea level) the snow production is running 24 hours a day.

Photo: Wei Qinghua
Photo: Wei Qinghua
Photo: Wei Qinghua

Lysgårdsbakken in Lillehammer ready for jumping

Cold temperatures and traditional snowmaking got the jumping hill ready for this weekend’s competitions, but both stored snow and a new way of distributing the snow were used and tried along the way.

Photo: Marit Gjerland
Photo: Marit Gjerland

The Normal Hill (K90) was covered with snow from last summer’s storage (just up the hill near the Cross-Country stadium).  In November, a new way of distributing (transporting) snow was also tested out on the ski jump (see photo and check out norsnowing.com).

Photo: norsnowing.com

Granåsen, World Championship venue for 2025, is testing it’s new snow systems

Granåsen arena on the outskirts of Trondheim, Norway, is this week distributing its snow-storage onto the competition courses. Those courses are planned to be used for the 2025 Nordic World Skiing Championship, but more importantly right now, for the January Norwegian National Championship.

Loading up trucks at the snow-storage site (Photo: Helge Johansen)
Snow on the courses prior to grooming (Photo: Helge Johansen)

Granåsen has stored snow for several summers now (about 15 000 cubic meters), but has also upgraded its snowmaking systems considerably the last two years. Their conventional snowmaking system is now fully automatic, uses high-capacity tower-guns in the stadium, efficient fan-guns around the main competition courses above the stadium (where temperatures are often marginal) and with snow-lances around their newest 1.5 km course below the stadium (where the temperatures are often colder than the rest of the venue).

New tower-guns in the stadium (Photo: Helge Johansen)
Snow lances along the new courses (Photo: Helge Johansen)

French ski resorts turn to hydrogen in drive for CO2-free snow

From Bloomberg Green (bloomberg.com/green).

France’s 250 ski resorts will switch to hydrogen-powered snow-grooming machines as they seek to make good on a pledge to cut direct CO2 emissions to zero by 2037.

Diesel-fueled grooming machines produce 94% of the carbon emitted by French ski resorts, with the running of lifts and snow-making equipment accounting for the rest, Alexandre Maulin, the head of industry group Domaines Skiables de France, said at a press conference on Friday.

The ski lobby is working with France’s Alternative Energies & Atomic Energy Commission and the three main suppliers of grooming machines — Germany’s Kaessbohrer Gelaendefahrzeug AG, Italy’s Prinoth SpA and local producer CM Dupon — and expects the first hydrogen-powered snow groomer on the market in five years.

“Yes, we are a source of pollution, the ski area, we’re going to deal with it,” Maulin said. “The first work will be to help with production of hydrogen-powered snow groomers. It’s a priority for all the manufacturers.”

France’s largest ski stations typically replace their snow groomers every five seasons and smaller ones every 10 years, Maulin said. So the entire French fleet of grooming machines could be switched to hydrogen over a decade, after a period of testing and working out bugs, he said.

The tracked machines, weighing over 10 tons, on average cost 400,000 euros ($469,000) a piece, according to Domaines Skiables de France. Manufacturers will recuperate R&D costs for hydrogen power in the price of their snow groomers, Maulin said.

  • French ski resorts invested an average 379 million euros a year between 2016 and 2019, with 10% of that spending on snow-grooming machinery, according to Domaines Skiables de France
  • Snow-grooming machines accounts for 94% of French ski station’s direct emissions, ski lifts 4% and snow-making equipment 2%
  • The French Alpine resort of La Plagne, the world’s biggest by number of skier visits, has 30 snow groomers to maintain its 225 kilometers of runs
  • France has introduced a 7 billion-euro plan to use hydrogen in industrial processes and transport to cut its carbon dioxide output by 6 million tons by 2030
Electric grooming machine (Photo: Kaessbohrer AG)

Solden World Cup

Solden opens the alpine World Cup in great conditions by using water injection.

Twenty-six men and two converted Pisten Bullys with one spray bar each with a width of 14 meter were used. The water was injected at a distance of 10 cm at 30 bar (the water will go to a depth of 30 – 40 cm).
The result is a slope that creates fair conditions through the entire competition.

Photo: Solden World Cup
Photo: Solden World Cup

The launch

The Snow Competency Centre site – www.snowcompetency.com – was launched September 9th, 2020, and communicated by several organizations:

Norwegian Ski Federation
The Internasjonal Ski Federation (FIS)
Snow Forecast.com
Save Our Snow.com
SINTEF
The Norwegian Department of Culture and Sport
Norwegian Biathlon Association
Norwegian Sport Federation