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Frozen - meetings on snow and climate

Published: 11 May 2016

For many, the highlight of the year is their skiing holiday but now the climate change threatens what previously was obvious, the availability of snow. This week researchers and the industry met to discuss the latest research in this area and possible future scenarios.

This is the first year the conference Frozen is held at Luleå University of Technology but the ambition is that this will become a regular event. Major economic interests are at stake in both the tourism and for the producers of related products.

Tommy Höglund, Sport director of Vasaloppet, Sweden spoke about the challenges faced by warmer winters. Every three years occurs a for the ski competition "bad winter" where lack of snow is compensated with extensive production of artificial snow that actually is better than natural snow, it is both faster and harder. The major cost is in transport.

More skiers on a smaller area

Professor Daniel Scott from the University of Waterloo, Canada, has developed advanced computational models to study the challenges faced in North America.

"The North American ski industry is NOT doomed", said Professor Daniel Scott.

He believes that both will be winners and losers in the major ski resorts in North America.

"More skiers will visit on a smaller area during a shorter season", says säger Professor Daniel Scott.

Daniel Scott also said that this problem is not entirely new, already 100 years ago, the bar man snow in large baskets to cope with the winter Olympics with good ski trails and slopes. In the future, think Daniel Scott Winter Olympics may be forced to choose between fewer and safer places for snow in winter.

- New secure locations will also be found in countries like China, said Professor Daniel Scott at the end of his lecture.

Twice as much water as air

Henrik Skoglund, Snow Makers Sweden gave a history of the snowmaking for skiing facilities developed over the years, that is, how do you produce snow, machine made snow, when it does not fall down naturally from the sky. The first snow gun, or "Air and water gun" came in the mid 1950's.

It was then a complement to the "real" snow. Today snowproducing, is set to be able to manufacture 100 percent machine-made snow to the ski slopes due to reduced amounts of snow, therefore producing snow is a completely different task today than before and the size of the pumping stations is growing.

- In the mid-1980s, we used twice as much air as water when we made snow, today we use twice as much water as air, said Henrik Skoglund.

Bark preserves the snow better

One question that scientists are grappling with is how snow can be kept from one season to another, in other words how snow can be stored to secure the start of the ski season. Nina Lintzén, reseracher at Luleå University of Technology, has studied the difference between bark and sawdust as insulation on top of the snow to protect it from melting outdoors.

- We found that the bark was actually a little better, she said.

How large area of ​​snow lying against the slope also affects how quickly it melts, the less area against the slope,  the longer the life. The problem, however, is to cover a steep pile of snow with natural materials such as bark and sawdust.

Vacuum to do snow possible at plus degrees

One man, that goes a step further, was Jonas Henriksson, F3 Snowmakeras, which promises a machine that manufactures snow, even before it's minus degrees. Today's snow machines need minus for snow production. Jonas Henriksson said, however, that the snow would begin to be manufactured largely in place just after the summer. A test of the prototype vacuum made snow will take place in autumn, 2016.

- Our machine should be seen as a complement to the snow guns. When it's minus one uses them when it is above zero you use our machine. That way you have control over the snow season. We produce snow under vakuum conditions. Water plus electricity are all you need. It is a more expensive production but you can on the other hand produce snow when ever you want, he said.

Other speakers at the conference were, Fabian Wolfsperger, WSL, Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, SLF, Davos, Switzerland, Johan Casselgren, Luleå University of Technology, Johan Wåhlin, Norwegian, University of Science and Technology, Trondheim , Norge, Professor Sture Hogmark, Uppsala University Sweden, Stefan Mårtensson, Luleå University of Technology and Professor Sven Knutsson, Luleå University of Technology.

Text: Richard Renberg, Katarina Karlsson