A visit to the snow depots
In the Mürren-Schilthorn ski area, the winter season already starts at the beginning of November - thanks to snowfarming.
A Thursday in October. It is one of those warmer-than-average autumn days. Winter seems very far away right now. We take the Schilthorn cableway from Stechelberg via Mürren to Birg at 2677 metres above sea level. Here, in the Engetal, a little below the cableway station, there is a lot of activity - and the coming ski season is omnipresent. But let's take it one step at a time.
After the season is before the season
As early as June, i.e. immediately after the end of the ski season, almost 100,000 cubic metres of snow were stored in two summer snow depots. "We pushed the snow together on two differently sized areas with snow groomers and piled it up in a trapezoidal shape, each about six to ten metres high," explains Peter Bühler, Head of Winter Sports at Schilthorn cableway AG. Then, in painstaking manual work, the tops of the two depots were covered with perimeter insulation boards made of hard foam, covered with foam mats and these were fixed with seam sealing tape. Finally, the entire depots were covered with white glacier fleece sheets and the fleece ends were buried in the ground at the sides for better fixation.
Only 15 per cent snow loss
So now, about four months later, the depots are covered, all the snow underneath is pushed away and made into a ski slope. "Despite a hotter-than-average summer, the total amount has only decreased by about 15 per cent. So there is more than enough snow to start the winter season as early as the beginning of November," explains Bühler. But time is pressing. "With four to six men, we've been at work for three weeks now, in a month we have to be finished with the slope," he says - saying goodbye and going back to the "construction site".
The early start to the season will be particularly important for regional ski teams, as training opportunities are becoming fewer and fewer every year due to the partial closure of glacier areas. A snow park is already being built before it is moved to its intended location in the Maulerhubel and Winteregg area in December.
The best solution
The alternative to the snowfarming project was the construction of a snowmaking system or a comprehensive correction of the pistes. Due to the barren, stony landscape, the snow requirement for an optimal piste at this altitude is relatively high. However, the two possible alternatives were more critical than the snow depots, both from an ecological point of view and from the perspective of landscape protection - and were therefore rejected.
Fresh snow at the start of the season
In the meantime it is November. Peter Bühler and his team have done a great job. The piste is prepared just in time for the planned start of the season. Even the wish of the head of winter sports, namely that the first fresh snow would fall at the beginning of November, is likely to come true. At least the meteorologists are forecasting that the snow line will drop to 2000 metres above sea level. So it's time to get the skis out of the cellar....