Every skier should have some: more snow

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The Independent Travel

Can a resort ever have too much snow? Certainly. Before Christmas so much of the stuff fell on Fortress Mountain in Alberta that the ski area opened late. But as a rule, the more the merrier: even Hemsedal in Norway, noted for its reliable cover, makes artificial snow early in the season - as do most resorts. Being between twice and five times wetter and more dense than the real thing, machine-made snow forms a durable base-layer for pistes.

Can a resort ever have too much snow? Certainly. Before Christmas so much of the stuff fell on Fortress Mountain in Alberta that the ski area opened late. But as a rule, the more the merrier: even Hemsedal in Norway, noted for its reliable cover, makes artificial snow early in the season - as do most resorts. Being between twice and five times wetter and more dense than the real thing, machine-made snow forms a durable base-layer for pistes.

Artificial snow has a long history. The first crystal was created in a laboratory at Hokkaido University in Japan in 1936, and the earliest instance of snow being generated from a natural cloud occurred in 1946, at Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. Experiments in snow-making for ski areas started in the USA in winter of 1949, and the Grossinger's resort, in the Catskill hills of New York State, installed the first snow-making machinery in 1952.

The technology was simple. In low temperatures (a few degrees below freezing) a pressurised mixture of water was sprayed into the air producing an ice-crystal cloud, from which artificial snow was precipitated. In Snow in America, published in 1997, Bernard Mergen reported that virtually every US ski resort makes artificial snow. "All it takes is lots of water and money," he wrote. (His figures were 150,000 gallons and $2,700 for an acre of snow a foot deep, plus $25,000 per acre for the machinery.)

In 1991, a Japanese company developed a machine that can make a form of snow in ambient temperatures of up to 15C. The technology has recently been installed at the Snow Park in Strood, Kent.

The Snow Park: 08700 344437; www.thesnowpark.co.uk

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