SIEPPUR - Sustainable Snow Summit 2024

Midway through the SIEPPUR research project (April 2024), the virtual Sustainable Snow Summit brought together Nordic snow sports experts to discuss sustainable snow management strategies and good practices from venues across Europe.

After welcome words from the IBU, Fabian Wolfsperger from the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Switzerland summarized the current state of sustainable snow practice in Europe within existing constraints: micro-climate, water, energy consumption, ecological elements, and social and economic factors.

“In Europe, resorts use snow storage and production to guarantee reliable snow coverage. Research has shown that about 70% of the costs associated with snow management are related to transporting snow (spreading, grooming, etc.). The data on the water and energy footprints of snow management has also been collected.”

Erik Melin-Söderström from Peak 63 in Östersund, Sweden, presented the process of gathering best practices - encompassing technology, techniques, planning, investment, and know-how - for making snow management more efficient and sustainable.

Case study BMW IBU World Championships 2024

Jan Skricka, who is the Secretary General at OC Nove Mesto na Morave in the Czech Republic, talked from his experience at the IBU World Championships this season.

“The World Championships 2024 are not an example of a truly sustainable event due to the extensive snow production and the need for large-scale snow transportation to make the event possible. Warm weather and unseasonable winds characterized the lead-up to the event. 45,000m3 of snow was produced, with 10.280m3 of it transported to location.”

Skricka also identified good practices including:

  • constructing a biathlon course in and out of the snow storage facility to minimise need for transportation

  • mapping out where machines can access the track with a nearby snow storage

  • ensuring a hard surface under the snow storage to keep the snow clean

  • using trucks to push the snow out

  • minimizing the need for machines to spread snow

  • using only 1000 kg of urea for hardening

  • employing good technicians and teams while ensuring gender equity.

Examples of sustainable snow production

Fabian Wolfsperger outlined a high emission scenario, with a possible 3-7 temperature degree increase in the Alps by the end of the century. He pointed out that climate experts predict that over the next 30 years, there will be 60-80% less natural snow around altitudes of 2000m.

Erik Melin-Söderström added that the IBU season 2023/2024 has seen warm weather creating soft conditions. His guidance included keeping the snow clean, preventing air pockets, using machine spreaders for salting, and investing in state-of-the-art snow-making.

Janez Ožbolt from OC Pokljuka, Slovenia, explained how unusually warm weather during the IBU Junior Cup in early December 2023 caused issues with water accumulation in the stadium, requiring extra workforce and energy to pump it out.

Kinga Jaworek from OC Jakuszyce, Poland, listed lessons learned from the venue's debut in the IBU calendar. These included a motivated team and volunteers who feel ownership of the event, a flat surface, a new snow management system, and a robust snow production plan utilising every opportunity to produce snow.

Dr Fabiano Monti, snow and avalanche expert, talked about the evolution of the practices used in Livigno. Located at 1800m altitude in the Alps, this location has had an artificial snow-making system since 2014 and a snow farm since 2017. The venue initially used wood chips to cover the snow storage, which had to be transported 70km and took 7-10 days to install. The current method involves using wood wool, which can be reused, leaves the snow clean, and takes 1-2 days to install. Additionally, a snow damper is now used to transport the snow, saving about 20% of the snow.

Future sustainable grooming

Joakim Bergström who serves as CEO of Winn Marketing AB and is responsible for PistenBully Groomers in Scandinavia, and Lars Lind Andreasen who is Managing Director, Prinoth AB in Sweden, talked about the technological aspects of sustainable grooming in the future, listing different alternative fuels available and stressed the importance of careful planning and skillful people for operating the machines.

Panel discussion: Governing snow management

Ingrid Beutler, Co-founder, Sustainable Mountain Alliance, pointed out that the SIEPPUR project includes highly diverse venues - regarding ownership, operations and environmental regulations - from around Europe ranging from large, top modern World Cup ski venues to smaller, less developed, or developing ski areas.

Martin Ohlsson from the Swedish Biathlon Federation, Kimmo Turunen, President of the Kontiolahti Ski Club, Finland, and Dr. Marlen Marconi, Head of Strategic Projects, Swiss-Ski, Switzerland, talked about the importance of close cooperation of all parties - including municipalities - when managing a venue that hosts national teams, the BMW IBU World Cup events and numerous smaller events for youth and local population.

In the future, the importance of understanding the needs of the customer groups that a given snow sports venue serves and tailoring its snow management strategy to those will be critical for the venue's long-term success.

SIEPPUR: Next steps

Before the closing remarks, Fabian Wolfsperger announced additional research subjects for the framework of the SIEPPUR project that will follow in the second half of the project:

1. Snow storage is often distributed on green fields. Can we protect the snow track better from melting with wind fences or shadowing?

2. Grooming: if using stored snow for track preparation is coarse-grained, how can sintering or liquid water assist?

3. Snow-making: How secure is it to produce snow at a particular time of year based on information on the expected snow production?

For more information, visit the webinar website here

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