In the early days of winter sports the snow was simply compacted with skis. It was not until later that machines were first used to make skiing easier and safer. Nowadays the quality of the slopes can be the determining factor for tourists selecting a particular ski resort.
Preparing and maintaining the snow cover on slopes calls for extensive technical equipment and is a very costly undertaking. We are therefore seeking to accurately define the requirements that need to be met by slopes intended for a variety of users. A further aim is to improve and further develop the techniques employed in slope preparation and grooming. With a view to optimising snow grooming methods, we are examining:
- the physical processes that take place in the snowpack and play a key role in piste preparation, such as metamorphism, cohesion and sintering;
- how meteorological conditions influence the snow surface; and
- snow hardening techniques.
We are also developing measuring instruments for determining specific slope properties in the field, such as density, hardness and water content. Using measurements and weather models we can forecast the surface temperature of the snow, which helps the grooming team to establish the best time for carrying out their work.
In order to share our research findings with practitioners we publish practical guidelines and host training courses. The publication "Preparation and maintenance of pistes – Handbook for practitioners" contains key information for grooming crews.
The latest release of the handbook (2018) is currently only available in German. An English translation will follow soon.