In the summer of 2016, Ruka Ski Resort in Finland conducted a test using their latest method of snow storage in order to guarantee an opening date. They set a goal for an opening time on the 10th hour of the 10th day of the 10th month this year and they succeeded. On October 10th, they opened the resort with a single top-to-bottom trail that ran almost half a kilometer long, 20 meters wide, and with half a meter thick base.
There are a few perks for the mountain that come from this snow storage strategy. Firstly, being able to guarantee an opening date for the coming season, no matter the weather or global climate effects, is extremely favorable for the resort and their professional riders who wish to begin their on-snow training for the upcoming winter events as soon as possible.
“The fact that an exact, early opening date can be set is advantageous for both the skiers and the ski resort. In future years, Rukakeskus wants to use stored snow for the opening of several slopes all at once, and as early as possible,”
-Matti Parviainen, Operational Director from Rukakeskus Ltd.
Secondly, snowmaking during midwinter is much more energy and resource efficient. Instead of fighting possible warm and unfavorable weather in the fall, making snow during the extremely cold winter months, stockpiling it, and then compensating for summer melt-off saves big on both wallet and water. Ruka blew 30,000 cubic meters of snow last winter and then harvested it all during the spring time, after closing date, into three humongous piles which they covered with white tarps and some saw dust in order to prevent as much melting as possible.
This method of snow storage isn’t exactly new to the ski industry, but using it for the purpose of guaranteeing opening dates at non-glaciated resorts is fairly recent. Geilo resort in Norway coordinated a similar operation which allowed them to open in September both this year and last year while Boreal resort in California uses this same procedure to allow for summer skiing at their Woodward-Tahoe summer ski camp. Hopefully more resorts will tap into this technique for saving energy and resources and then everyone else benefits from getting out on the slopes earlier too, it’s a win win!