Zermatt is one of the most popular area where visitors can enjoy skiing all year round. This is because of Zermatt’s snowmaker. It allows skiers and snowboarders to enjoy good pistes during summer as well as early days of winter. The snow machine produces snow regardless of temperature, even when it is above freezing point. And so a good snow base can be laid in early autumn to ensure perfect pistes in winter. Zermatt means snow sport on 365 days a year, in summer on the Theodul Glacier, in winter on 360 kilometers of pistes. Piste preparations for the winter season get into full swing from the end of September to beginning of October. The main tool here is the Snowmaker, a massive snow machine that even produces snow at temperatures above freezing point.
The snow machine is the further development of desalination system that originated in Israel around 30 years ago. From this desalination system, engineers from the Israeli company IDE constructed a large cooling plant used in South African gold mines. The waste product from this air cooler, similar to refrigerator, is snow and ice. From here, it was no great technical step for the innovative engineers to create a snow making system. Contact between Zermatt and the Israeli company was first made in 2003 and Zermatt took delivery of the world’s first Snowmaker in 2008. A second machine was delivered to the Pitztal ski region in Austria shortly afterwards.
But how does such snow making system work? The technology is based on a principle of physics whereby water placed in a vacuum will immediately partly evaporate, without having to reach boiling point. However, the energy needed for evaporation must come from somewhere. In this case, the evaporating water extracts this energy from the remaining water, which is appreciably cooled and thus crystallized. This crystallized water is thus snow, similar to spring snow, and is used for piste preparation. A transport spiral shoots the snow out to the waiting snowcats. These then distribute the snow in early autumn, for example between the Theodul Glacier and the summit station of Trockner Steg. The Snowmaker is used for around 14 days in early autumn for about two to three weeks. Then it is in operation around the clock. The machine is also used systematically in winter and spring, depending on weather and snow conditions.
With the Snowmaker, Zermatt can guarantee the route from the Thodul Glacier to Trockner Steg from as early as the beginning of October. This means it’s high time to hit the pistes from the end of every September. Zermatt Bergbahnen AG and Zermatt Tourism team up to offer ski-test packages, an attractive deal for snow sport fans who want to test new gear. The packages include two overnight stays, a two day ski pass, two days of ski tests with new skis as well as tips and tricks from licensed ski instructors. Anyone wanting to see how snow is made in Zermatt can take part in Snowmaker explanation tour which is available for groups from 10 persons.