Monday, November 10, 2008

The Kitzbüheler Alpen double guarantee of snow

Despite having had its earliest opening in its 80 year history with ski lifts, due to huge snowfalls a year ago, Kitzbühel has been battling to shake off an image of being a potential early victim of global warming. The resort – which has one of the lowest major ski areas in the world – had a difficult winter in 2006-7 when the famous Hahnenkamm downhill race, in common with many others in the Alps and North America, had to be cancelled. A high profile UN report on climate change also indicated that resorts like Kitzbühel might be one of the first to suffer as winters shorten and snowlines rise due to global warming. Now the resort has hit back publishing a document with the 10 most important factors that contribute to absolute snow guarantee in the Kitzbüheler Alpen (based in natural snowfall and a high-tech backup of snow cannons.):
  1. Northwest orographic barrier at the Alpine Divide: One of the most prevalent weather conditions in the northwest is the cloud band over the Alpine Divide. This generates heavy snowfall in the Kitzbüheler Alpen.
  2. Constant quantities of new snowfall*: The average annual snowfall in Kitzbühel has remained constant since official records commenced in 1958. Each year, more than 2.5 m of snow falls in the valley, and a total of 8 m in the mountains. Anomalies such as winter 2006/07 have occurred in the past. In 1989, 1972 and 1963 the region had less than 140 cm of new snow throughout the season.
  3. Winter in Hahnenkamm*: Since 1993 the Kitzbüheler Alpen region has become markedly colder. Snowfall is now a more frequently occurrence, providing more snow, which remains longer on the ground. Hahnenkamm is covered in more than 20 cm of natural snow for almost six months of the year.
  4. Piste locations: The majority of the region’s pistes are found in idyllic, snow guaranteed resorts in a north, north eastern or north western geographical location, where the sun dips gently, allowing the snow to last longer on the ground.
  5. Alpine grassy slopes as a base: The region’s grassy slopes offer the perfect base for snow-covered ski pistes. While ski resorts with rocky or rugged terrain require very thick layers of snow, the smooth grassy slopes of the Kitzbüheler Alpen only require a 20cm compact layer to create the perfect piste. Woods on the left and the right of the pistes prevent snowdrift.
  6. Snowmaking machines: A total of 3,440 snowmaking machines guarantee snow over 762 km of pistes. It takes only three days for the snow cannons and snow lances to cover over 70 % of all pistes.
  7. Snowmaking capacity: The snowmaking facilities in the Kitzbüheler Alpen have all been upgraded with the latest technology last winter. This ensures that the entire ski resort of St. Johann in Tyrol can be covered in snow within a mere 60 hours. And within 72 hours, 110 km of local piste can be immaculately covered and prepared for exhilarating skiing. That is a distance equivalent to Kitzbüheler Alpen – Munich.
  8. Raw material for the snowmaking machines: 40 local reservoirs provide a total of aprox. 2,5 million cubic meters of water, thereby ensuring adequate water supply for permanent snow during the long winter season.
  9. Temperature for snowmaking*: Kitzbüheler Alpen has an average of 157 days when the temperature drops below zero. This usually happens at night, when it invariably snows. Of these 157 days, there are 77 days (2.5 months) when the temperature never rises above zero allowing it to snow around the clock.
  10. Snow Experts: Skiing in the Kitzbüheler Alpen has been a popular winter pastime for almost 100 years, and for the last 20 years nature has been assisted by high-tech snowmaking machines. The region’s snow experts and piste managers know the Kitzbüheler Alpen slopes, climate and weather conditions better than anyone else. They offer the finest quality pistes from your first day of skiing to your last.

* Source: Based on metrological data from the Innsbruck Academy for Metrology and Geology for Kitzbühel-Tal valley and Kitzbühel-Berg (Hahnenkamm) regions compiled since 1948 .