Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Paul R. Bierman
Climate change increases the unpredictability of winter weather and threatens the future of nordic skiing. Ski centers at high elevation and high latitude have employed over-summer snow storage, a climate change adaptation strategy, to ensure a consistent start-date to their winter ski season. Over-summer snow storage involves making a large pile of snow during winter and storing the snow beneath protective layers, such as wood chips or foam panels, to impede melt throughout the summer and fall. When ready to open the ski season, the ski center uncovers the pile and spreads the snow to create trails. Though many nordic centers around the world store snow, its implementation has not been widely researched. It has also never been tested in the United States.
This research seeks to evaluate snow storage’s success at the Craftsbury Outdoors Center, a low elevation, mid-latitude ski center in Vermont, U.S.A. To determine success, physical, financial, and environmental analyses were conducted from 2018 to 2019. To test physical feasibility, we collected snow pile volume change data over two summers. In summer 2018, two, 200 m3 piles were created, covered in wood chips, and their volume changes were monitored using laser scanning. Effectiveness of different coverings were also tested through temperature comparisons of snow beneath woodchips, foam panels, and reflective sheets. Mean melt rates were found to be 0.64 % of the initial pile’s volume per day, with maximum loss recorded during mid-summer and minimum loss in the fall. These experiments indicated that wet wood chips covered with a reflective sheet was the most effective cover combination for minimizing volume loss. These results informed the creation of a 9300 m3 pile in 2019. The snow pile was monitored with laser scanning and lost <0.16% of its initial volume per day between April and September. It retained 60% of the initial snow volume by October which was enough snow to open the 2019 season on time. These results render snow storage technically feasible at this location.
To determine financial and environmental feasibility, all steps of the snow storage process were analyzed for cost in dollars and impact in kilograms of CO2 released. Steps included site preparation, snow pile creation and covering, and snow pile uncovering and spreading. The directors of the center confirmed snow storage’s financially viability. When compared to skiers flying to an alternative ski center if the Craftsbury Outdoors Center could not open, snow storage produced less CO2. These data show that snow storage is both financially and environmentally feasible. Overall, snow storage is technically, financially, and environmentally successful at this location and, given current climate predictions for winter, could be implemented at other nordic centers to extend nordic skiing’s lifetime into the twenty-first century.
Number of Pages
Weiss, Hannah Sarah, "The Feasibility of Over-Summer Snow Storage at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury VT" (2021). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1345.