Swiss ski resorts turn to ‘snow farming’

Storing snow under a thick layer of sawdust each spring since 2008 has helped turn a 500-metre cross-country ski track in Davos into a four-kilometre trail. © KEYSTONE / Gian Ehrenzeller

According to Le Matin Dimanche, ski resorts are storing excess spring snow to make up for a lack of it during the early months of winter, especially during the holiday season.

This content was published on December 23, 2018 - 17:04
Keystone-SDA/RTS/Le Matin Dimanche/cl

It’s a practice known as ‘snow farming’ and is more common in the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. It's often used in tandem with snow cannons, which produce snow from scratch using water and pressurised air.

According to the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche ResearchExternal link (WSL), snow farming involves storing excess or artificially produced snow under an insulating layer of sawdust or wood chips. It was first practiced in Switzerland in canton Graubünden in a 2008 trialExternal link carried out by the Davos tourist board and WSL. Since then, resorts in Adelboden, Saas-Fee, and Kandersteg have followed suit, Le Matin Dimanche reported Sunday.

Let it snow

According to the French-language newspaper, ski seasons have shortened in Switzerland by 37 days on average between 1970 and 2015.

Swiss Public Radio, RTS, reported Sunday that heavy rains and mild temperatures over the past week have put a strain on ski resorts at lower and middle elevations as they enter the critical holiday season. However, hotels in resorts at least in the French-speaking region of the country don’t seem to be suffering, with those in cantons Fribourg, Vaud and Valais taking in typical numbers of guests for the season.

This positive outlook, despite the warm conditions is “mainly due to the loyalty of Swiss skiers, who represent the majority of customers during the holidays”, RTS reported.

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