How does the piste preparation at the Stubai Glacier work?

Whinch cat on the Stubai Galcier at sunset

Nice grip, hard but not icy and perfect for carving - that's how you want the slopes at Stubai Glacier. This is where our pilots from the piste team come into play. In the evening, when all ski guests have left the Stubai Glacier, they are active. Even when it is already dark, they prepare night after night with their snow groomers, so that the next morning the guests can again make their turns in the snow.

BUT WHAT IS PISTE PREPARATION ACTUALLY AND WHY ARE PISTES GROOMED?

Piste preparation refers to the mechanical compaction of snow into a piste. With the help of a snow grooming machine the snow is compacted and thus optimal conditions for skiing at the Stubai Glacier are created. 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 heat and therefore withstands external influences longer.

Stubai Glacier snow cat at night

When are the slopes prepared?

Piste preparation at Stubai Glacier takes place in the evening and at night. On average, our snow groomers are on the slopes for about seven hours per day. In dry weather, they 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. In the event 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.

Piste preparation on the Windachferner on the Stubai Glacier at dawn

And how is a piste prepared?

The snow groomer on the Stubai Glacier presses on the fresh snow, mixes it with the old snow underneath and thus creates a load-bearing layer. If there is no fresh snow, the piste-team compensate for the damage to the piste caused by wind, weather and skiers by removing snow or milling up the ice layers. For steeper sections, winch cats are used to help prepare the slopes. The winch cats are our most powerful pushing machines. The goal is a perfect distribution of snow on the slope.

An optimally prepared slope then has the well-known "grooves".

Groomed pistes on the Stubai Glacier

Why does a prepared piste actually 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 flat slope.

 

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

Today's snow groomers no longer have much in common with the "Ratrak". They are high-tech vehicles whose cockpits visually resemble those of an airplane. Thus, 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 location and that of their colleagues. In addition, the drivers always have an eye on the settings and parameters of their vehicle.

In the cockpit of the snow groomer, a screen displays the settings of the tiller, the overhead winch or the lighting to the operator. 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, which weigh around 13 tons, are steered using a steering wheel or two sticks. They react sensitively to even the slightest movement. The pilots also have to handle the vehicle's large shield with great sensitivity. They use a joystick to control all the movements of the shield. These are carried out proportionally to ensure gentle handling.

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

Screen in the cockpit of a snowcat on the Stubai Glacier
Four snowcats with headlights standing on the piste in front of the Dresdner Hütte
Cockpit of a snowcat at the Stubai Glacier
Four members of the Stubai Glacier piste preparation team and their vehicles in front of the Dresdner Hütte

What is the fleet management system?

A fleet management system is a system to monitor vehicles of all kinds (e.g. snow groomer, truck, skidoo) in a ski resort. 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 computer.

The SNOWsat snow management system makes it possible to stay in lane even in poor visibility and always know exactly where the snow groomer is and where the other groomers are. This prevents dangerous departures from the piste in poor visibility and collisions with other snow groomers. At the same time, the system measures the snow depths and can also display tracks that have already been skied, edges of the slope, obstacles such as buildings, lift supports or snow guns.

This is how the preparation report is created

And this is how the preparation report on the Stubai Glacier is created. The SNOWsat system records the GPS data of all skied tracks. The runs of all snow groomers are summarized on a map and played out on the website.

What machines are in use at Stubai Glacier?

On the Stubai Glacier, 15 Pistenbully snow groomers and one Prinroth vehicle are in use for preparing the slopes. Five vehicles are equipped with a snow depth measurement system.

THE PERFORMANCE AT A GLANCE

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

Power of the most powerful: 520 PS

Top speed: 23 km/h

Weight: up to 13 tons

Cost: up to € 600,000

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