Ruka Ski Resort announced a few days ago that it plans to open for the 2021-22 winter Ski and Ride season in less than 100 days. The resort, located in Finland, plans to open for the season on October 8th, 2021. This is significant as the resort does not exist on a glacier.
Given that Ruka isn’t on a glacier, one may wonder how they can open. The resort uses snow farming techniques to save snow during the summer months. The process involves gathering large piles of snow and putting it all under large white tarps and sawdust. In late September, when it is time for Ruka to open, they remove the covers and the snow is spread out by Pisten-Bully Snowcats. Sure, this creates the classic “white ribbon of death” situation, but simply skiing on last season’s snow in October is a unique experience.
Why sawdust one might ask? Studies have found that sawdust has natural cooling capabilities that allow for snow to be better insulated.
The Process of Snow Farming can save up to 75% of the snow from the season before. With the continued threat of climate change, snow farming provides a viable safety net for resorts. Often, the holiday period is the most lucrative period for resorts, and having limited terrain can negatively impact the guest experience. Using snow farming can negate these impacts regardless of the weather. Technologies like snowmaking are great when the weather is cold, however, snow farming allows resorts to have snow when snowmaking temperatures are not possible. Resorts like Ruka can open regardless of the temperature. Ruka is not the only resort to use this technology. Besides Ruka, Courchevel and St. Anton, located in the Alps, have used this process to open more terrain early in the season.
The “Race To Open” in North America has been won by various resorts around the country, from Colorado to Minnesota. Perpetually, some of the first to open in the United States are A-Basin and Loveland in Colorado. Unlike Ruka, these resorts rely on cold temperatures so snowmaking can be possible in late September and October. In 2019, A-Basin opened on October 12. It will be interesting to see how they compare to Ruka this year.