• Caitlin Kennedy

How To Make Snow

The Alps have seen an awful lot of crazy weather this season. There are waterfalls where there should be walls of ice and buds on trees that aren’t due to arrive until April. Maybe it’s a fluke season, but more than likely it’s a sign of things to come. Although we might not want to face the facts, rain and long periods of hot sunny weather in January are going to become frequent occurrences as strange weather becomes the new norm. Some resorts have already lost the fight. There’s an incredibly eerie photo series by Tomaso Clavarino of abandoned ski resorts in Europe and the States, which shows stationary ski lifts, still as a photograph, hotels gradually disintegrating into ruins and pistes being engulfed back by nature.

Val d’Isère however, is ready. Obviously it already has a major advantage. Standing at 1850m elevation, the town and its ski area are far more likely to experience snow than its lower down counterparts. But as the average snow/rain limit for the season creeps up year on year, the powers that be have another trick up their sleeve that doesn’t require much input from Mother Nature. With a plentiful supply of water, a little air and a negative atmospheric temperature, Val d’Isère Télépheriques is doing what Science Fiction writers predicted back in the 70s: making their own weather. Although you’ll almost certainly have moaned over receiving a face-full of snow from the cannons, it probably hasn’t crossed your mind the amount of work that goes into producing “fake” snow. The word snow here is actually a misnomer as Pierre Mattis explained on a backstage visit to the snow-making facilities. Because what they are making is neither snow nor ice nor water, but a combination of the three. The easiest way of explaining this is by comparing a microscopic image of a snowflake alongside a molecule of what is produced by the snow cannons. Essentially, the resulting substance is a globule of water encased in a sheath of ice.