Project image Snow nervousness and snow cannons



Artificial snow and snow cannons

Artificial snow and snow cannons

The fact is, winter sports in the Alps today would be unthinkable without artificial snow. More than 50% of Swiss ski slopes can be covered with artificial snow. In Austria it is a good 60%, in Italy more than 90%. While some are in favor of artificial snow for economic and touristic reasons, others criticize its ecological consequences. This debate is coming to a head again, especially in times of energy shortages and the climate crisis. Frick has observed that the question is increasingly being raised in the social media and in culture as to whether energy-consuming systems are still needed at all if a sport is kept alive that is reserved for a financially strong minority and that nobody will be able to practise in a few decades anyway.

The history of snow-making systems
The first snow gun was an accidental invention. When Canadian engineers investigated the formation of ice in aircraft engines in the 1940s and poured water into the turbine, snow was created as a waste product. It wasn't long before snow cannons became very popular in America as an aid for winters with little snow. Between the 1950s and 1980s, they even served as one of the biggest advertising aspects of ski resorts. For the first time, winter fun could be guaranteed regardless of the natural conditions. Criticism followed in the 1980s, when snow cannons also became widespread in Swiss ski resorts. In the context of forest dieback and the growing awareness of nature conservation, snow cannons were seen as a destroyer of flora and fauna. Criticism continued, and today the focus is also on increasing energy and water consumption and the associated climate policy debates.

Criticism of snow cannons
In terms of sustainability, the question arises as to why snow cannons in particular are the subject of controversial debate when, for example, driving to the ski resort by car is far more harmful to the environment. Frick explains that questions of sustainable and ecologically justifiable winter sports are often linked to the symbol of the snow cannon, as the controversial debate surrounding snow-making systems has been going on since the 1980s and artificial snow is a key factor in the maintenance of ski resorts. Snow cannons are also vulnerable because they stand out from the Alpine landscape in purely aesthetic terms. While mountain railroads, which also testify to a certain mechanization of winter sports, are already an integral part of the Alpine landscape for many, snow cannons are still perceived as troublemakers.

The future of artificial snow
There are many different answers to the question of how snow cannons and artificial snow should be used in the future. The absurdity of producing artificial snow when there is no more snow is undisputed. And if temperatures continue to rise, even the best snow cannon will no longer work. At the same time, at the end of the day, mankind enjoys a leisure activity that consumes energy. That is why it is hardly feasible to completely do away with snow cannons at this point in time. The literary scholar explains that it must always be clarified on a regional basis whether the implementation of snow cannons makes sense. Future discussions would therefore have to take into account circumstances such as the available water resources and climatic conditions.

Published on 15. January 2024