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How the Alpin Arena Senales contributes to glacier preservation

One of the most tangible signs of climate change are the retreating mountain glaciers worldwide, presenting ski resorts with a major dilemma. The scarcity of snow in the warmer seasons is especially problematic and calls for extraordinary measures.

The past year has been particularly severe. Following an unusually mild winter, the dearth of snow in the Alpine regions continued throughout spring followed by record breaking heat waves. During the summer months, cold bursts of air would normally produce fresh snow at higher altitudes, typically covering the darker ice patches with snow dust and debris. Thanks to the “ice-albedo effect” the newly deposited white snow causes a significant percentage of the incidental sunlight to be reflected back into the atmosphere. Due to the unusually high temperatures, however, this did not occur as expected and no new snow cover could be formed. This left the naked ice exposed to the incident solar energy, thus further warming the glacier.

Effective countermeasures

For the past several years, the Alpin Arena Senales has been looking for ways of counteracting its shrinking glacier ice. Much time and numerous resources have been mobilised to find ways of preserving the glacier. This includes over 200,000 m3 of artificial snow that are produced every spring and distributed across the glacier surface. Some of the snow is stored in large deposits. During the summer months, special geotextiles with reflective properties are used to cover approximately 7 hectares of the glacier. After spreading artificial snow over the area to be covered, large rolls of 70 x 5 m textile sheets are joined together and weighed down to keep them in place. By allowing the artificial snow to melt before reaching the glacier ice, these composite textiles help to mimic the “albedo effect” and have been proven effective in countering the depletion rate of the permafrost. Some of the meltwater is then recycled into the water system with the remainder used to generate electricity. The Alpin Arena Senales continues to invest in new green technologies offering increased operational efficiency with even less energy consumption. The new Glacier Cable Car is such an example.

With the receding glacier, relics of the past are also uncovered including old pipes, wooden beams, as well as metal & plastic debris. As such detritus comes to light, it is managed and disposed of professionally.

While mindful of the importance of the glacier for the environment, the Alpin Arena operators also prioritise its economic sustainability that affects the entire Schnalstal Valley.



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