One of the more novel solutions to early season demand and climate change is employed on the Pitztal Glacier in the shape of a ‘Vacuum Ice Maker’ unit which sits just beneath the top station of the Pitz Express funicular. The unit is obvious to passing skiers and snowboarders as there is an industrial type conveyer belt appearing out of the square production facility. During times of production this belt deposits the manufactured snow in a heap at the side of the slope – this snow is then distributed to the connecting pistes that link up the non-glacial areas on the Pitztal Glacier. The Vacuum Ice Maker is capable at operating at several degrees above zero and can produce 1720 cubic metres of snow per day, so assuming that the required snow depth is 1m and the piste is 10m wide, ca. 170m of slopes can be manufactured each day, almost by magic. Snowmaking consumes resources in terms of energy but according to the manufacturer it is environmentally sound and a low energy technology. The Vacuum Ice Maker on the Pitztal Glacier ensures that the slopes are open from very early autumn and with car parks and the lifts rolling it is this (and other technologies) that are responsible for ensuring that we don’t have to kick of our skis and negotiate rocky sections.
As well as the massive snow deposit that Mother Nature laid down across the Alps 1 week ago, there are technologies in action that are ensuring that the skiing in September and October on the Austrian glaciers is pretty much indistinguishable from the peak winter months.