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Saved snow - a safe way to early opening

How can we ensure an early opening even if the cold shines with its absence? The weather is a factor that we unfortunately can not influence, but with produced snow, which consists of air and water, and by saving snow during the summer months, we can even in poorer winters guarantee an early opening and skiing for our guests. Here we tell you everything you need to know about how, why and when we save snow.

Surely it would have been nice if the natural snow came perfectly to the premiere date every year and if the cold was a guarantee in the same way that the sun rises every morning? But that, as you probably understand, is not the case. And the fact is that natural snow is not always the best way to go in our Swedish climate. A mixture of produced snow, which has a higher density and is significantly more durable, and natural snow creates the optimal conditions for skiing. But even for us to be able to produce snow, cold is required. How do we eliminate factors such as weather and wind so that we can open as planned? There is a simple answer - by saving snow. At Vallåsen, we therefore always try to be at the forefront and take advantage of all new research that exists in both snow production and saving snow - so that our guests will have the best possible experience on the ski slopes, regardless of the weather.

We save all the snow that is left
As soon as we close for the season, the work to save snow for the next ski season begins. All snow that remains is excavated and formed into one or more large piles, reminiscent of the shape of a loaf, of about 10,000 cubic meters. The mounds are placed in strategic places, usually just above the place where the snow is to lie, so that we can quickly and easily get it out on the slopes and the cross-country trail again as winter approaches. But how can the snow remain in the summer heat? Does it not melt away? Of course, we can not stop melting completely, but we can slow it down.

The snow is covered with sawdust
To make the melting slower, there are various materials to cover the snow with, everything from wood chips and bark to geotextile cloths. At Vallåsen we use sawdust. When the snow melts under the sawdust, water evaporates which in turn creates a cooling effect. In this way, the melting is slowed down and a large part of the snow remains after the summer.

A perfect foundation
When autumn comes, it is important to be on your toes all the time and follow the forecast for when the cold seems to come. Just before the predicted cold, the snow is uncovered and the preparations for excavating it in the longitudinal track and the slopes begin again. Because the saved snow has accumulated, it has a significantly higher density than natural snow and also newly produced snow. The fact that it has a high density means that it is very durable, which makes it a perfect foundation that lasts a long time.

Three quick questions

Jesper Malmquist, site manager at Vallåsen

Why does Vallåsen save snow?
- We save snow to be able to open early in the season. There is a great deal of interest in downhill skiing in December and even earlier for cross-country skiing. We can open the entire length track only on saved snow, which says a lot about how important it is. It also means that, when the temperature allows, we can focus entirely on snow production for the alpine activity instead of dividing it between the slopes and the cross-country trail. With our snow factories, we can also produce in plus degrees and therefore we have good conditions for opening earlier than other facilities in southern Sweden.

How much snow does Vallåsen save?
- There is no clear answer to that, as it is different from season to season. One year we may save 8,000 cubic meters, and another year we may save 40,000 cubic meters. Our goal is simply to save as much snow as possible, as the saved snow is perhaps even more important to us as far south as it is for other facilities. Therefore, we produce snow as soon as we get the opportunity during the season so that more snow remains when the season is over.

How much snow is left for next season?
- Usually 70-80 percent of the snow is left when we excavate it again, but when we lay it out, we get air in the snow, which means that the volume increases. We can thus cover larger areas than it looks like when we uncover the pile.

This is how we save snow on Vallåsen in five steps

Step 1 - Place the snow in the right place
Immediately when the season is over, we excavate the snow that remains in large piles in strategic places where they can easily be excavated out on the slopes again.

Step 2 - Create the perfect shape
The piles are formed into large and smooth "loaves" to prevent water from lying on top, which can eventually run down and melt the snow.

Step 3 - Cover the snow for the summer
We cover the piles with sawdust, which is known as one of the most effective insulation materials for preserving cold. By covering to cover the snow, we make the melting slower.

Step 4 - Uncover the snow as winter approaches
When the forecast shows that the cold is approaching, we remove the cloths and bark from the snow. After the summer months, 70–80 percent of the snow that has been under bark and about 60 percent of that that has been under canvas remain.

Step 5 - Excavate the snow on the slopes again
During this process, we get air into the snow, which increases its volume. We can cover larger parts of the slopes and thanks to its high density we get a perfect foundation that lasts a long time.