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Žagarkalnā atsedz sniega krājumus

Latvian slopes experiment with year-round snow

Take note – story published 5 years and 6 months ago

Latvia has experienced its first real snowfall of the season this week, but as Vidzeme TV reports, there has been snow on the ground in Latvia throughout the summer and fall months - albeit on a trial basis.

The Žagarkalns ski center near the city of Cēsis has managed to keep a certain amount of the white stuff throughout the year, using Finnish experience to keep snow "alive" so that the winter season can start more promptly than would otherwise be the case.

At the end of the last ski season, more than 10,000 cubic meters of snow were shaped at Žagarkalns, treated and covered with special geotextile material to extend its life.

The result is that with the new season getting ready to begin, the resort already has over 4000 cubic meters left behind in the heat of the pile. While 60% of the snow mass was lost during one of the hottest summers on record, the remaining 40% still gives those preparing the slopes a significant headstart that means Žagarkalns should be certain of opening to the public in December.

"In Finland, on average, 40% is lost. We have a longer period of heat, and this summer, spring and autumn were warmer than usual. But despite this, we found that during the summer months we lost 10% per month, in spring and autumn 5% per month," said Maris Zvīnis, director of the ski center. 

The accumulated snow on the ski slope is approximately a meter thick. Even thunderstorms and rain once the covers are off should not do serious damage and if necessary it can be covered over again.

"This is the only way to ensure that the track can always open in December, and last year we only opened the first run in mid-January, which is unacceptable to us," said Zvīnis, explaining that the snow preservation method should make non-Alpine ski centers with unreliable snow like the ones in Latvia a lot more economically viable. 

Sub-zero temperatures in recent days have created favorable conditions to start snow production. And, according to forecasts, further natural snowfall is likely this week, so ski-mad Latvians could be enjoying themselves a full month earlier than last year.  

"The new snow is fresher, the preserved snow is heavier, but if we layer new snow on top of the artificial snow, then its quality is excellent," Zvīnis said.

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