It’s currently being tested on the slopes of the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl resort in Tyrol.
Water droplets are injected into a 3.5 metre high, balloon-shaped ‘cloud chamber’, and are cooled but not frozen at low temperatures (ideally colder than -5 degrees) in a process which turns the water into powder snow.
The new technology uses significantly less energy and water than conventional snow cannons. "Snow cannons produce only about two cubic metres of snow from one cubic metre of water – from the same amount of water we can produce up to 15 cubic metres of powder snow," said project leader Michael Bacher.
“Each year Austrian ski resorts produce 120 million cubic metres of snow – if only 20 percent of that was produced using our snow cloud there would be a saving of between €50 and €60 million,” he added.
Bacher plans to make the first prototype after testing it out in the alps this winter. He said the device would be ideal for use on beginner slopes or fun parks where high quality powder snow improves the skiing experience.
Werner Hanselitsch, marketing director of the Obergurgl-Hochgurgl ski lift company, said that there is a lot of interest in “more sustainable snow production". His ski area covers 110 km of slopes, 95 percent of which use artificial snow at a cost of €3 million a year.