Snow – your luxury ski holiday depends on it

Where would we be without snow, all togged up and nowhere to ski, empty resorts in the winter and without the white stuff we can add another species to the ever growing list of extinctions, the snowman. Too sad.

Silky snow fields in the Alps

That scenario isn’t going to happen this year it seems. As the ski resorts around Europe gear up for the coming ski season, already snow is falling thick and fast and the base depths of resorts have been on the increase. Across France many resorts have recorded huge early season dumps and Swiss resorts report the same conditions. The snowmen can breathe easy.

Snow is very versatile, you can ski, sledge, snowboard, snowmobile, make snowballs, construct igloos, fashion snow angels and indulge in other less savory activities. It’s never been recorded who holds the record for the longest name written in the snow but the average male bladder has a finite capacity, so I reckon it was probably a Mark that made his mark, so to speak. The world’s biggest snowcastle, the Snowcastle Of Kemi is built in Kemi, Finland every winter.

Demi snow castle entrance - Finland

Meanwhile, in the film industry, Foley artists use cornstarch, salt or cat litter to simulate the sound of footfall on snow. They should consider using toy mice, because when the temperature falls below minus ten, snow will actually squeak when walked upon. Snow has good sound absorption properties too. Have you ever stopped and noticed the otherworldly silence in a snowscape after a fresh fall of snow? That’s because the trapped air between the individual crystalline flakes, traps sound waves and dampens vibrations. Studies concerning the acoustic properties of snow have shown that loud sounds can be used to measure snow cover permeability and depth.

Snow isn’t always benign, an avalanche can occur, usually triggered by a sudden thermal or mechanical impact upon snow that has accumulated on a mountain, which causes the snow to rush downhill en masse. Preceding an avalanche is a phenomenon known as an avalanche wind caused by the approaching avalanche itself, which adds to its destructive potential. Large amounts of snow which accumulate on top of man-made structures can lead to structural failure. Although all the European ski resorts are well versed in keeping infrastructure well cleared of snow, other countries grind to a halt at the first sign of a significant fall.

In some areas blessed with abundant snowfall, people harvest and store snow in ice houses. This allows the snow to be used through the summer for refrigeration and air conditioning. This was common practice before Jacob Perkins built the worlds first refrigerator in 1834. The world snowiest city is Sapporo, Japan, with average yearly snowfall of 595cm, one assumes that sales of  Bosch refrigerators don’t do so well there. The world record for snow depth is 1182cm. It was measured on the slope of Mt Ibuki, Japan at an altitude of 1200m on 14th February 1927.

Fresh snow reflects 90% or more of ultraviolet radiation, which causes snowblindness.  Snow blindness is a painful eye condition, caused by exposure of unprotected eyes to the UV rays, so those posey sunglasses and goggles are a must at higher altitudes as the effect is amplified every 300 metres of elevation gain. Snow’s large reflection of light makes night skies much brighter, since reflected light is directed back up into the sky. However, when there is also cloud cover, light is then reflected back to the ground. This greatly amplifies light emitted from city lights, causing the ‘bright night’ effect. A similar brightening effect occurs when no snow is falling and there is a full moon and a large amount of snow.

Snowman sunny day Alps

I don’t mean to cause alarm but there are very likely extraterrestrial snowmen. Very light snow is known to occur at high altitudes on Mars. A “snow” of hydrocarbons is also thought to occur on Titan, Saturns’ moon. If you see a snowman without a carrot nose it’s  more than likely an alien. Nobody really knows how they arrived here, most of us will have actually seen one and never given it another thought. Like our own earthly species they are mute. They stand in silence but inside they are desperately trying to communicate . . . “I come in peace”. When they die, they form a puddle, evaporate and return to the skies.

Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Phil says:

    I didn’t know there was very light snow on Mars!!! What do you think the snowmen would say to an Earthling snowman?

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