It goes without saying that each winter, whichever ski resort you are in there is a hope for plenty of snow, and then a bit more. It’s hard not to have a huge smile on your face when you notice it’s dumping outside and you realise that tomorrow is going to be an epic powder day, and your village will look beautiful and white.
The old wives tales and meteorological predictions:
The chat gets going early autumn with old wives’ tales and even some meteorological predictions on how good the coming winter will be:
It’s an El Niño year…
Its the year of La Niña….
The marmots are whistling half an octave higher…
There are an odd number of orange berries on the trees in town….
It was a particularly hot and dry summer…
North America had a good season last year, so it will be Europe this year…
And while we would love to believe the predictions every year (which are pretty much always positive) are correct, sometimes it’s just not the record-breaking snow season.
It’s fair to say it’s seriously disappointing in a dry winter, when there just isn’t that much precipitation as we want or need, and some of the slopes are bare and maybe some of the ski runs can’t open.
Altitude & snowmaking
Thankfully, Zermatt is high, the village sits at 1620m and the highest skiing is up at 3899m, which means right at the top there is even enough snow to ski in the summer. Even with its lofty altitude, Zermatt can have periods of the season with little or no fresh snow, but the enormous investment in snowmaking has made all the difference to our slopes.
Making artificial snow has been around since the 1950’s and began in America, but it’s since the early 90’s that it’s taken off in Europe. The process of making artificial snow involves forcing water and pressurised air through a nozzle to make a mist, which freezes in the air mimicking the way snow is formed naturally.
In 2008, Zermatt invested in a machine aptly called ‘The snowmaker’. This impressive machine can make snow even in temperatures above freezing, which means they start preparing the upper slopes here in late September or early October. Working on the pistes so early means they can connect the end of the Theodul Glacier with Trockener Steg, and open up a good amount of the skiing in time for the Ski Test weeks in October. As we move into November and the temperature starts to drop, snowmaking can begin on the lower slopes too.
Snow sure skiing
Now, with years of work from the Zermatt lift company, more than 75 percent of Zermatt’s pistes have artificial snow capabilities, using over 800 snow makers. The result is a longer ski season and slopes with a better base.
While nothing makes up for fresh snow and an awesome powder day, we have to acknowledge the importance of snowmaking in the future of the ski industry. It means that not only is Zermatt already one of the highest and most snow sure resorts in the Alps, it’s also investing to protect our slopes in the less snowy times… adding to the multitude of reasons why you should be visiting the resort this winter!
Hope to see you on the slopes soon!