The Monínec resort has been equipped with the Snowfactory facility since 2016. The device enables the production of snow thanks to a special snowmaking technology. The technology ensures the production of snow even at temperatures up to 15° C.
Snowfactory technology is based on the classic cooling principle and the entire snow production process takes place in a closed circuit. The snow produced by this technology is therefore also free of any chemical additives and is based on only two main sources - water and air. Snow forms small ice flakes. Snow made at Snowfactory is the only one that does not contain any residual moisture. Ice flakes have a temperature of -5° C. Due to this low temperature, the snow creates its own cooling and melts very slowly. The resulting snow belongs to the quality of firn: snow whose flakes have already undergone a complete crystalline transformation into tiny ice grains. In addition to two stationary, Monínec will also have one Snowfactory mobile module available, which can be provided to other people interested in snow production - for example for various races, demonstration events, etc.
Snowfactory technology has already been successfully tested in seven places in Europe. However, the Monínec resort will be the first in Europe to snow its downhill slopes with this system on such a massive scale. Until now, the technology has only been used for biathlon tracks or ski-jumps. The only downhill run where Snowfactory has been used so far is a 300-metre stretch in Winterberg, Germany. This winter, however, there will be 18 places worldwide where Snowfactory will be used, from California to Vietnam.
This new snow-making technology has only been used in seven places in the world so far – it was originally intended to make snow for smaller areas, particularly biathlon tracks or ski-jumps. However, snow production increases with the number of production units, meaning that use of the technology can be broadened in a way that is almost surprising.
Development got underway five years ago, the first prototype was used in Winterberg in 2014, and 18 of these machines are now in operation worldwide. As of this year, the Boreal Mountain Resort in California provides year-round outdoor skiing using the technology.
One reason they decided to introduce Snowfactory in Boreal was that the snowfall in previous winters had been lower than expected. The main purpose of the technology introduced, however, was a summer freeski camp – the functioning of the system was tested by covering the whole snowpark with snow for a summer exhibition and instruction. Summer camps at Boreal, mostly attended by young, progressive skiers, confirmed that the technology can indeed be used for making snow during the summer, and they want to continue in this trend in the coming years.
The principle of production
The whole process of creating this type of snow begins by freezing pure water in a heat exchanger – just as it is with a household freezer, the refrigerants are within a closed circuit, and cannot therefore reach the slope and pollute the countryside. The equipment as a whole looks like a cargo shipping container and works just like a giant freezer or slushie maker. It is sometimes also compared to air conditioning. There is a cooling chemical in a pipe in the separate outer layer of the container, from which it is separated from the water by another layer. The cold created means that the water freezes. So it is not exactly snow, as we have already said, but rather crushed ice (the slushies we buy from the confectioner in the summer are quite misleading, though, containing a lot of liquid water, while Snowfactory ice is drained of liquid water thanks to its refrigeration). Technically speaking, the cleanest water possible (the system is equipped with a very technologically demanding system of filters) is used to create “flakes” of ice at approximately -5°C with the lowest residual moisture possible – that is why the snow produced can absorb surrounding moisture, increasing its durability (see below) - and these are then crushed, distributed and sprayed on to the slope over a 200-metre radius. One machine produces up to 2.3 tons of frozen matter per hour.
The system also has the advantage of being easy to install, as it comes in a separate container that is easy to transport. This is then placed on the slope, connected to electricity and water, and can get on with making snow. The machine consumes up to five times as much energy as a traditional snow cannon, but, compared to their consumption of around 400 litres of water per minute, Snowfactory consumes only around 60.