WORLD FIRST FOR LES 2 ALPES
14th September 2017 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
The French resort is doing something no other ski area has done before – putting snowmakers above 3,200 metres on moving ice.
Six of the machines are being installed on the glacier at Les2Alpes in an attempt to halt the effects of climate change and regenerate the glacier.
Experts have been monitoring the state of the glacier and say it is losing between one and two metres of its depth each year. It is 60 metres deep.
A lack of snow last winter and this summer’s heatwave have also taken their toll.
A small lake has formed at the foot of the glacier at 3,200 metres.
“The €800,000 investment is a world first,” the resort says in a statement.
“Snowmakers have never before been installed on living, moving ice at such an altitude – 3,400 to 3,200 metres – exposed to freezing temperatures.”
The new machines are in the process of being installed now alongside the Puy-Salié ski tow.
They should be operational by mid-October, ahead of Les2Alpes’ expected autumn opening date of 21st October.
“All the glaciers around the world are affected by global warming,” the statement says.
“Specialists have been observing Les2Alpes’ glacier for over a decade.
“Several techniques are used to preserve it such as snow trapping – stockpiling snow using wooden barriers or a series of half-tubes dug into the glacier, the snow from which is then spread over the glacier and the ski area – but this is now not enough.”
PlanetSKI was in Les2Alpes as it opened for summer skiing at the end of June and found conditions were not as good as in previous years:
“The snow made by snowmakers is heavier than natural snow and allows to accumulate enough snow on the glacier to regenerate the ice, the statement says.
“The snowmakers will use water from the lake formed at the bottom of the glacier.
“The lake has a volume of 35,000 cubic metres, and will be able to create enough snow to cover three hectares with a thickness of two metres.
“This closed system replicates the natural water cycle and gives the glacier back what once belonged to it, in the form of snowflakes.”
Glaciers everywhere are shrinking.
Most of those in the Alps that offer summer skiing have had a difficult season. Poor conditions forced some to close early.
And there’ve been a series of summer rockfalls and mudslides as the ice melts.
The investment by Les2Alpes is part of an ambitious project to produce enough artificial snow to cover 30 per cent of the whole ski area.
It already has a snow factory at 2,100 metres in Les Crêtes, an underground snow factory in the Vallée Blanche area, 250 snow cannons, two snowmaking specialists, a snow engineer and 33 grooming machines.
The first stage of the project has been the installation of a second water pipe to supply the Crêtes snow factory, enabling all of the snowmakers to work simultaneously.
It means this winter they’ll more than triple the amount of snow that can be produced in an hour from 600 cubic metres to 2,000 cubic metres.
That production rate is important so the snowmakers can take full advantage when the weather is right for snowmaking.
For Les2Alpes – and most alpine resorts – enhancing snowmaking is a priority if they’re to protect winter tourism as global temperatures continue to rise.
Les2Alpes opens for the autumn from Saturday 21st of October to Wednesday 1st of November 2017.
Winter opening is from Saturday 2nd of December 2017 to Saturday 28th of April 2018.
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