The cold breeze of winter season and the first flakes of snow puts your countdown to your most awaited ski vacation to its end. However, snowing patterns have changed due to global warming, forcing ski resorts to use artificial means to create snow through snow cannons. Ski resorts usually use this machine to create the first layer of snow.
Snow cannons create snow by combining cooled water and compressed air. The compressed air serves three functions in the process of making artificial snow. First, it "atomizes" the water or splits them into many tiny droplets. Second, it blows the water droplets into the air. Lastly, it helps cool the water droplets as they fly into the air. During warmer days, they use an agent known as Snowmax - a protein which provides a nucleate for ice crystals, enabling freezing at temperatures around -3C.
Although considered to be a savior to most skiing resorts, these cannons have undesirable effects on the environment.
Since it uses water to create artificial snow, it increases water consumption. Based on an article published on Chamonet.com, it is estimated that snow-making in France uses more water than in a town with 170,000 inhabitants. However, there are resorts now that utilize treated waste water in order to create snow instead of fresh waters from reserves.
Moreover, it uses too much energy. It contributes further to the problem of global warming due to the amount of energy output it creates. In addition, these machines contribute to noise pollution. In fact, a single snow cannon creates sound between 60 to 80 decibels which is equivalent to the noise created by heavy traffic. This noise disturbs wildlife in the mountains.
In addition, let's not forget that these machines also use certain chemicals in order to produce artificial snow. And when the artificial snow melts, the residue of chemicals coming from the snow may affect vegetation.
Furthermore, artificial snow is much denser than natural snow so it melts much later than natural snow, thus increasing the volume of melted water that runs down the mountain, causing natural erosion.
Plus, the chemical additives used in creating artificial snow may find its way into rivers which supplies potable water for the resorts.
The use of treated waste water also raised alarms. They argued that chemicals used in treated water may cause further harm to the environment.
Bottom line is, while snow cannons may help sustain businesses, its detrimental effects to our environment could not be ignored. So how can we ski vacationers take an active role on helping keep the ski industry alive while still being environmentally responsible? Here are a few ways:
- Take steps to reduce energy use. Unplug seldom-used appliances and turn off all the lights when you leave the room. While we can't put an end to the use of snow cannons for now, we can take necessary actions to eventually end climate change (and render snow cannons useless in the process) in our own little ways.
- Go for alternatives. When snow's scarce, it's high time to consider other fun activities that don't require snow. Go waterskiing, or hiking.