Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Research article
07 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 07 Apr 2017

Determination of snowmaking efficiency on a ski slope from observations and modelling of snowmaking events and seasonal snow accumulation

Pierre Spandre, Hugues François, Emmanuel Thibert, Samuel Morin, and Emmanuelle George-Marcelpoil

Abstract. The production of Machine Made (MM) snow is now generalized in ski resorts and represents the most common method of adaptation for mitigating the impact of a lack of snow on skiing. Most investigations of correlations between snow conditions and the ski industry's economy focus on the production of MM snow though not one of these has taken into account the efficiency of the snowmaking process. The present study consists of observations of snow conditions (depth and mass) using a Differential GPS method and snow density coring, following snowmaking events and seasonal snow accumulation in Les Deux Alpes ski resort (French Alps). A detailed physically based snowpack model accounting for grooming and snowmaking was used to compute the seasonal evolution of the snowpack and compared to the observations. Our results show that approximately 30 % of the water mass can be recovered as MM snow within 10 m from the center of a MM snow pile after production and 50 % within 20 m. Observations and simulations on the ski slope were relatively consistent with 60 % (±10 %) of the water mass used for snowmaking within the limits of the ski slope. Losses due to thermodynamic effects were estimated in the current case example to be less than 10 % of the total water mass. These results suggest that even in ideal conditions for production a significant fraction of the water used for snowmaking can not be found as MM snow within the limits of the ski slope with most of the missing fraction of water. This is due to site dependent characteristics (e.g. meteorological conditions, topography).

Short summary
The production of machine-made snow is generalized in ski resorts and represents the most common adaptation method to mitigate effects of climate variability and its projected changes. However, the actual snow mass that can be recovered from a given water mass used for snowmaking remains poorly known. All results were consistent with 60 % (±10 %) of the water mass found as snow within the edge of the ski slope, with most of the lost fraction of water being due to site-dependent characteristics.