Bayerische Zugspitzbahn AG (BZB) has already been working successfully with SNOWsat in the Garmisch-Classic ski resort for two years. The firm has now acquired an additional snow management system for more effective snow grooming on the Zugspitzplatt. We found out all the details in a chat with the decision makers from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
It is actually unbelievable that downhill runs were still possible in the Garmisch-Classic ski resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen until late March, given that snow was rather scarce in the northern Alps last winter. This is not actually that serious a problem nowadays – the resort has numerous snow guns and a sophisticated snow production concept. As long as temperatures play along. And they were decidedly too high. Looking backon the 2013 / 14 season, the talk in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is of "snow hours", rather than "snow days".
After the base snow was laid in November and December, snow production was actually over – too warm to start up the guns. "In the past, that would have been the end of the season", states Anton Ostler, Head of Snow Production in the Garmisch-Classic ski resort. "Our experienced drivers would certainly have found some snow deposits and re-distributed them accordingly. There was often more snow in the depressions than we believed, however. This only became apparent in the spring when the slopes melted unevenly." That has totally changed: "Now that we can plan and deliver the snow so precisely, the melting period is much shorter. That’s because the snow deposits are now used much more efficiently during the season and deposited exactly where the snow is needed" – Karl Dirnhofer, Operations Manager at Garmisch-Classic, Slope Manager Christian Wurmer and Anton Ostler, all agree. "This is not only kind on the ski resort’s budget but also on the environment."
The ski resort of Garmisch-Classic now has two seasons with 6 SNOWsat-equipped PistenBully behind it – and is more impressed with the system than ever. Anton Ostler: "SNOWsat definitely saved us last season. We were hardly able to produce any snow, but had ’managed’ the November snow so well that it was still on the slopes at the end of March – exactly where it belonged and was urgently needed. Every evening, we took the snow deposited by the skiers and put it back on the slopes. The snow depth display meant we were able to groom a snow covering of 5 – 10 cm with precision, distribute the snow from the deposits where it was needed and keep the peaks permanently covered." Christian Wurmeradds: "Up on the Joch, for example, there is a trench that we emptied completely. I am convinced that we would not have been able to keep this downhill run open otherwise."
"This is about a lot of money", adds Karl Dirnhofer. "We all know what it means financially to be able to keep the downhill runs open for three weeks longer. SNOWsat also facilitates detailed costing and allocation, however. It is conceivable, for example, to work out precise expenditure for an event like the World Cup as a separate amount from the costof daily grooming for tourists. For the World Cup we need a lot more snow – ultimately there are very precise regulations for the runs." With SNOWsat these can be planned and prepared perfectly in advance. Toni Ostler adds: "I produce the snow promptly and can then use it specifically where needed."
Karl Dirnhofer hesitates somewhat over the level of saving: "The last few seasons have been unusual. We don’t have any relevant figures for comparison. I would accept a cost reduction of 20 % as realistic though. Ask me again in one or two years! The data will become ever clearer as the years pass and, thus, better for comparison."
In the past, you had to rely on instinct and experience, but in SNOWsat drivers today have a fantastic tool at their disposal, says Karl Dirnhofer: "Out of fear of picking up not only the last snow, but also stones and dirt, you often stopped snow removal too soon. Now drivers can work with far greater precision. That gives them certainty. It is now the case thatour drivers – especially when the conditions are difficult – only want to drive the vehicles equipped with SNOWsat."
Based on all these positive experiences, BZB has now decided to use SNOWsat in the Zugspitze ski resort. Two PistenBully 600 from the vehicle fleet will now take up work in Germany’s highest ski resort. "I am very excited about the new system", says Martin Hurm, Operations Manageron the Platt. "As we have no snow-making facilities up here, we have to manage the existing snow more carefully. We normally get a total snow depth of around 4 – 5 metres through the winter – last year this figure was only 2.5 metres. So it’s becoming scarce for us up top too. It’s crucial, therefore, to make optimum use of the natural snow deposits that mother nature often leaves us in late autumn." This is especially true for the start of the season as well. Because we usually have snow then, while people in lower resorts are still dreaming of it. "We have a total advantage during these weeks and can already offer ski operations to visitors with perfect slope conditions."
What’s most important to Martin Hurm, however, is safety: “We often have extreme visibility conditions on the Zugspitze – fog or massive snow fall. Then the Platt becomes a white snow desert and orientation in the terrainis a real challenge. Even for our experienced drivers – snow grooming with almost no visibility. That’s why I now count on SNOWsat completely. The touchscreen in the cockpit show exactly where the vehicles are. I am convinced that this additional tool will be very well received by our drivers.
But there is still one thing we want despite SNOWsat and PistenBully – and that’s snow. We’re hoping that mother nature will be a bit kinder in that regard that she was last season!"
We at PistenBully naturally wish for that too and will continue to support the ski resorts of Garmisch-Classic and Zugspitze in any way we can.
Winter sport from tradition and passion – that’s what the Olympic town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen stands for. A mighty Alpine panorama before you, Germany’s most snow-safe ski resorts at your feet. Even when winter fog sits in the valley, the glacial ski resort of Zugspitze at an altitude of almost 2,700 metres is like a sunny island in a sea of cloud. Germany’s highest ski resort offers pure skiing pleasure on 20 km of natural snow slopes. The 40 km of slopes in the ski resort of Garmisch-Classic, which covers the three mountains of Hausberg, Kreuzeck and Alpspitze, has ideal conditions for beginners and pros alike. Ambitious skiers and boarders are drawn especially to the demanding Kandahar run, on which the best racing skiers in the world regularly test themselves.