Installed in a 17 tonne container, this totally innovative production process complements the “classic” artificial snow system in the ski resort of Châtel, which currently has more than 320 snow cannons for a total coverage of 60% of the slopes of the ski resort.
“The 60% is very close, we are approaching the ranges reached in Italy or Austria, two countries ahead of France, which has lagged with a national average of 35% of the total ski area with artificial snow”, comments Nicolas Rubin , mayor of the Châtel town hall.
Snowfarmer: an awesome snowmaking system at Châtel
The concept has been studied for several years and the production takes place inside the machine, before being expelled to the outside, for storage, propagation or transport.
With a simple water supply of the diameter of a garden hose, SNOWFARMER is capable of producing 4m3 of snow per hour, its great advantage is that it does not depend on the outside temperature, one of the main “handicaps” of the production facilities of standard and traditional snow. Once connected to electricity and water, the snowmaking system allows it to cool below the freezing point. Then a system of blades is used to create dry ice flakes, 100% frozen, with a temperature of -5 degrees.
“The Snowfarmer is a complement. It will never replace the snow cannons of Châtel“
Then they are projected out of the container through a simple tube. As they accumulate, these flakes form a snow pile that can then be moved by mechanical or hydraulic systems.
According to the manufacturer TechnoAlpin, this additional storage of cooling energy considerably slows down the melting process and allows, after having stepped on this snow, to obtain a very nice snow quality for skiing.
With an outside temperature of 15 ° C, snow can be produced inside this large snowmaking bucket.
The water requirements of Snowfarmer are similar to those of a conventional system
“You need to consume one cubic meter of water to produce two cubic meters of snow,” explains Max Rougeaux, Marketing Director of Technoalpin. In the specific case of Châtel, the Snowfarmer, or “snow farm” is fed by the lake of Plaine Dranse that has a capacity of 8,000 m3. The ski resort has a total of four artificial lakes with a total water storage capacity of 298,000 m3.
A constant concern to maintain the economic activity of the valley
With this new system, completely new in France, the ski resort of Châtel wants to strengthen its capabilities to guarantee snow from the beginning of the season, especially to ensure the practice of skiing for beginners if the negative temperatures do not appear sufficiently soon.
“The Snowfarmer is a complement. It will never replace the snow cannons”, Chatel mayor Nicolas Rubin told our colleagues at El Dauphine.
It should, for example, allow Châtel to guarantee the organization, in very good conditions, of the French Alpine Skiing Championship that will take place at the ski resort from 21 to 29 March 2018.
But the innovation has a cost, sometimes difficult to support for a ski resort: Snowfactory constitutes a total investment of € 400,000.
In Scotland, the ski resort of Glencore launched in autumn an application for funding the purchase of this type of system and let the skiiers to enjoy snow conditions, regardless of the outside temperature.
The solution chosen by Châtel has been to rent the “cube” Snowfarmer for € 40,000 per winter season, with the option to purchase.
A prudent solution, with multiple challenges, that allows all the actors to test, in real conditions, the operation of this system and improve sustainability as well as the relevance of the investment.