Protecting the glacier with snow reserves
Snow farming has already been practiced for 15 years on the Kitzsteinhorn. Over this time, the staff has acquired plenty of "snow-how", as Guenther Brennsteiner, one of the company's authorized representatives, tells while ascending the mountain in a snow groomer: "We started our snow reserves under the scientific guidance of GEORESEARCH, a non-profit research institute founded in 2016. That same year, we launched the project "Open Air Lab Kitzsteinhorn" – with the Technical University of Munich and the University of Salzburg as project partners. Together, we have developed our snow reserves, which have proven beneficial to glacier margins."
Covering snow with fleece and a sewing machine
Work on the strategically well-distributed areas of the snow reserves starts in May. Snow groomers push together and compress snow that would normally melt. Head of slopes René Cizek rides to a reserve that's in the making by the valley station of the Schneehasen ski lift on his Ski-Doo; here, other experienced crew members are already waiting.
"We get the best results when the snow has not yet been heated through by the sun and become old snow. Today, our crew will cover the remaining area of the approximately 30,000-square-meter large Schneehasen reserve with fleece, stitch up the sheets with a handheld sewing machine and attach the sandbags."
Skiing on last winter's snow
Finishing all snow reserves takes the experienced crew around one and a half months. As soon as the last fleece sheet has been stitched, positioned and weighed down, the snow reserves commence their estivation. Over the summer months, René Cizek regularly checks whether fleece and sandbags are still in the right position.
Up to 80% of the stored snow can be preserved over summer, even with high temperatures, and serve as perfect snow-making base in fall, as Brennsteiner explains: "Before winter season starts, we remove the fleece, roll it up and store it away for the next time round. The snow is then distributed evenly over the areas it's needed."
Protecting the glacier ice
However time and strength consuming creating reserves may be for the team, the sustainability factor and the positive effect they have on glacier ice make the effort worth it. Brennsteiner reports: "Open Air Lab scientists examine glacier loss owing to climate change every year by means of drone imaging. The collected data has shown not only a stop in glacier mass loss in the reserve areas, but even a growth here and there, especially by reserves located higher up the mountain. In the ICE ARENA reserve area, for instance, a growth of 2.5 meters could be recorded over the course of eight years. That motivates us to further deepen our knowledge in snow farming."
|Snow farming competence:
||over 15 years
|Total preserved snow mass:
||200,000 cubic meters in 10 reserves
|Sufficient for (in fall):
||90,000 square meters of slopes (equals 7 soccer fields)
|Set up duration:
||1.5 months with a team of 10 people
||on 2,900m by the ICE ARENA
||up to 2.5 meters in the reserve area