How does piste preparation work?

12/10/2022

WHAT IS PISTE GROOMING ACTUALLY AND WHY ARE PISTES GROOMED?

Piste preparation refers to the mechanical compaction of snow into a piste. The snow is compacted with the help of a piste machine, thus creating optimal conditions for skiing on the Stubai Glacier. A compacted and freshly prepared snow cover is not only better for skiing, cross-country skiing or winter hiking, it is also more resistant to warmer temperatures loss and therefore withstands external influences longer.

When are the pistes groomed?

The piste preparation on the Stubai Glacier takes place in the evenings and at night. On average, our snow groomers are on the slopes for about seven hours per day. If the weather is dry, we start right after closing time to ensure optimal hardening of the slopes for the next day. The piste needs at least eight hours to harden in order to maintain perfect conditions for as long as possible the next day. In case of snowfall, grooming takes place in the second half of the night so that the fresh snow can be compacted in the best possible way in the morning.

And how is a piste groomed?

The snow groomer on the Stubai Glacier presses on the fresh snow, mixing it with the old snow underneath to create a load-bearing layer. If there is no fresh snow, the groomers compensate for the damage to the piste caused by wind, weather and skiers by removing snow or milling out the layers of ice. For steeper sections, a winch is used to assist in the preparation of the slopes. The winch machines are our most powerful pushing machines. The aim is a perfect distribution of the snow on the piste.

A optimally prepared piste then has the well-known “grooves”.

Präparierte Pisten am Stubaier Gletscher

But why does a groomed piste have grooves?

The grooves provide a larger surface area and allow the night air to cool down and solidify the snow better. In addition, the grooves provide a softer and therefore nicer ride than on a completely level slope.

How does a snow groomer work? How can the drivers see anything in the dark?

Today’s snow groomers no longer have much in common with the classic “Ratrak” machines of the past. They are high-tech vehicles whose cockpits look like those of an aeroplane. This means that the snow groomer drivers have many electronic and partly GPS-supported aids to accompany them through the night. They can read important information on the screens and also observe their own and their colleagues' location. Moreover, the heroes of the night always have an eye on the settings and parameters of their vehicles.

In the cockpit of the snow groomer, a screen shows the driver settings for the tiller, the overhead winch or the lighting. At the same time, they also control various parameters, such as diesel engine speed, engine temperature, oil pressure, and much more.

The snow groomers on the Stubai Glacier with a weight of approx. 13 tons are steered by wheel or with two sticks. They react sensitively to even the smallest movement. The pilots also have to handle the large shield of the vehicle with a lot of feeling. They control all movements of the shield via a joystick. These are carried out proportionally to ensure smooth handling.

All Stubai Glacier snow groomers have a fleet management system on board. Some even have a snow management system that measures the snow depth under the snow groomer.

What is the fleet management system?

A fleet management system is a system to monitor vehicles of all types (e.g. snow groomers, trucks, skidoos) in a ski area. Vehicle data such as fuel consumption, driving time and location are determined. The data is then displayed in an overview and can be called up via the PC.
The SNOWsat snow management system makes it possible to stay on track even in poor visibility and always knows exactly where the snow groomer is or where the other colleagues of the grooming team are. This prevents dangerous off-piste driving in poor visibility as well as collisions with other piste vehicles. At the same time, the system measures the snow depths and can also display already skied lanes, edges of the piste, obstacles such as buildings, lift supports or snow guns.

How  is the piste preparation report made?

And this way also the piste preparation report is made on the Stubai Glacier. The SNOWsat system records the GPS data of all tracks covered. They are then summarised in a map and displayed on the website.

Which vehicles are used on the Stubai Glacier?

On the Stubai Glacier, 15 Pistenbully snow groomers and one Prinoth vehicle are used to prepare the pistes. Five vehicles are equipped with the snow depth measuring system.

Consumption: up to 40 l/hour, solo machines up to 28 l/hour

Performance of the most powerful ones: 520 hp

Top speed: 23 km/h

Weight: up to 13 tons

Cost: up to €600,000

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En tour at night
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