Europe’s most snow-abundant ski area
How an English man made Warth-Schröcken the most snow-abundant ski area in Europe, why Fritz Schlierenzauer misses the snow every morning and three men worry about crystal seeds.
Snow conditions as a vocation
It is 6.30 in the morning and the snow is crunching beneath his feet: Fritz Schlierenzauer leaves the Hotel Körbersee and heads to a marked off snow field. Every day for more than 30 years he has making his way to his snow station. It is here that he measures the snow, observes the wind and weather, takes the temperature readings for the snow and measures how much new snow has fallen. Last winter this was exactly 9.25 metres in the Warth-Schröcken ski area. His observations and measurements form part of the daily avalanche situation report to the state of Vorarlberg – and his recordings accumulate to become exact snow statistics each winter. He recorded an all-time high for the last 40 years in the winter of 1998/99 when 16.50 metres of snow gathered between November and the end of April. Even in the worst skiing winter Schlierenzauer can recall 5.50 metres of snow falling. ‘We live with a great deal of snow here; 7 months of deep snow cover is standard,’ says Schlierenzauer. The fact that his daily routine has helped the ski area of Warth-Schröcken gain a global reputation, is something he certainly would never have thought about.
The man who measures the snow: Fritz Schierenzauer
Fritz Schierenzauer lives at Körbersee and is the owner of the hotel of the same name. He manages the snow measuring station on a voluntary basis and supplies the key details for the state avalanche situation report.
The snow brings fame and honour
English ski journalist and renowned expert in Alpine weather and snowfall patterns Fraser Wilkin started extensive research throughout the Alpine area and has compiled many years of measurement results and statistics to determine the most snow-abundant ski areas in the Alps. He published his highly respected results in November 2008 in the British daily newspaper, The Daily Mail. Since then, the Warth-Schröcken ski area has been regarded as the most snow-abundant ski area in the Alps. Fraser estimated a long-standing average of 10.70 metres of snowfall each year. A record value that Lech, the neighbouring town in the Arlberg, almost achieved too (10.40m). The top 5 is completed by Braunwald (9m) in Switzerland, Austria’s Obertauern (8.80m) and Avoriaz (7.80m) in France.
The article by Fraser Wilkin was published in the British Daily Mail in 2008 and helped Warth-Schröcken gain its title of ""Most snow-abundant ski area in Europe""
With the Nordstau weather system comes snow - lots of snow
Fritz Schlierenzauer is not surprised by the results. He is aware of the geographic and meteorological explanations – the Nordstau weather system is the name of the phenomenon that brings masses of this white wonder in the winter and the word ‘snow-assured’ sounds almost like an understatement: In winter in particular it is results from across the Atlantic that determines the weather in Europe. Wet masses of air typically come from the north or from the north-west to the Alps and come cross the first notable obstacle in the Arlberg region, upon which the laden clouds let go of their ballast. Skiers benefit from this too of course; thanks to the altitude location of the ski area and the numerous north and east-facing slopes, they go into rapture at excellent snow conditions, well into spring.
Powder snow is a cert here, which is why skiers adore the region – even if you have to dig your car out of the snow in the morning more frequently than in other places. ‘The Nordstau weather system presents us with a great deal of work but we are actually happy when we get so much snow’, laughs Schlierenzauer. However in the last few years it has been arriving later than expected.
Mother Hulda's earthly assistant
’We get the majority of snow in March and April,’ states Schlierenzauer, which is why he and his colleagues at Warth ski lifts are particularly involved with the art of snow-making during the run-up to Christmas. This summer they installed one of the most state-of-the-art snow-making facilities in the Alps and are now able to provide perfect skiing conditions on the 12 main pistes in Warth, from the very first day of skiing. ‘Our snow is made up of water from Hochalpsee and from the air,’ says Markus Lorenz, manager at Warth ski lifts. Together with Florian Huber and Reinhold Bickel he is responsible for the snow and during production works round the clock to guarantee the best result. The addition of pressurised air in what are called nucleator nozzles, creates an air and water mix which forms crystal seeds. Fine droplets of water attach themselves to the crystal seeds, creating snow crystals as they head to the ground. The better you know the machine, the better the result. “Making snow is an art for which a great deal of experience and team work is required, so the quality is right on all of the pistes. The entire snow-making facilities are controlled via computer, although during the night we also do an inspection in a skidoo and have to know the exact composition of the mountain to guarantee the best quality,’ he explains. ‘The reputation of the ski area for producing guaranteed snow is down to us,’ add the two snow experts. Fritz Schlierenzauer can only agree with that, although he knows from many years of experience that, Snow comes every winter. A lot of snow.