St. Moritz in the upper Engadin valley is one of the most famous and oldest winter sport resorts in the world. With Vision 2025, it is attempting to garner another superlative.
St. Moritz aims to use snow makers on its pistes that only use reclaimed water – a world first.
Adrian Jordan, COO Engadin Mountains
Born in Valais, he has called the Engadin home for the past 10 years. Together with a staff of 260, Adrian Jordan ensures this high-tech ski area lives up to its reputation. The father and business engineer ensures that all aspects of sustainability are considered.
This has become the latest issue in order to become more sustainable. According to Adrian Jordan, in order to really make a difference, it is important to consider the ecological, economic and social aspects. Currently the largest project is a second reservoir, which should save an incredible amount of money on artificial snow. But this too is just one of the pieces that makes up the overall vision of a sustainable ski area.
The second reservoir is slated to cost CHF 10 million, but the payoff is set to be much bigger, even if not in every respect immediate. Adrian Jordan assumes that it will have to be in operation for twelve to thirteen years before the new water management will have paid for itself.
There are various advantages to storing meltwater high up at 2,500 metres above sea level. Since the water is already up on the mountain, no more needs to be pumped up from the valley – these pump systems are being removed. And since the water is stored on site, it is directly available. If conditions are good, it can be used to create artificial snow within a short amount of time. This means fewer operating hours for the artificial snow equipment, which saves electricity, water and money.
There are complex models that determine how much snow cover should be produced, based on the terrain, the directional orientation and the incline. Cornering on a snowboard or skis carries away a lot more snow on steeper areas than on flatter terrain; this is why snow cover of between 70 and 40cm respectively is required.
Preparing the pistes requires driver and machine hours as well as the consumption of fuel. The drivers have an enormous impact on what is used and how much. In order to be as efficient as possible while they are out and about, they receive technical support. Their cabins are real high-tech cockpits.
The Snowsat system operates using satellite data. The measurements taken during the summer months are compared in real time with the position of the vehicle. The difference here tells the driver how deep the snow is, to within 3cm.
This information is particularly important in rugged terrain as not every crevice needs to be filled to the brim with snow. As the drivers know precisely how many centimetres of snow are on the ground, they can be sure not to dig too deep or cart off too much snow. This saves operating hours, fuel and snow, which in turn also saves water. Despite this sophisticated technology, the driver is responsible for interpreting the data correctly. By delicately manipulating a kind of joystick, the driver can move the snow plough on the front in twelve different directions.
Which parts of the pistes have more snow and which less? The snow groomers deliver the answers to these questions, and the information is then recorded. As long as the snow machines are correctly positioned, they can be controlled directly from a central unit or via smartphone. They can determine not only whether water should be made into snow, but also in which direction the snow should fall. This means that the wind, which plays a key role here, can be monitored, saving hours of time in preparations.
There are improvements that can be made in all areas. This goes for individuals but in particular also for companies. The new water management with the two reservoirs is a single project that is embedded in a vision and based on technical advancements. In St. Moritz, there are numerous snow groomers with motors that are similar to hybrids and use biodegradable motor oil. The solar panels of the Piz Nair railway also produce enough energy for every sixth trip up the mountain, and on Muottas Muragl the first plus-energy hotel in the Alps has been built.