Snow cannons have become a common sight in most ski resorts nowadays, to make up for the lack of snow and to keep visitors coming. But their use is environmentally hazardous, expensive – due to the large amounts of electricity needed – and unreliable as they often fail to work in temperatures above zero.
Now, two Italian engineers have perfected the recipe to transform water first into slush, then into fluffy white flakes in a few seconds, without any using chemical additives. They’ve called their invention “Neve XN“Perenne or “Neve Perenne” (“perennial snow” in Italian).
“There are two main differences between our machine and a snow cannon: first, it consumes just one tenth of the electricity normally used by a snow cannon. And second, once you turn it on, our machine produces a constant amount of snow regardless of weather conditions,” says co-inventor Francesco Besana.
Inside the machine, high-pressure steam produces a vacuum that turns the water into slush. Outside, electronic components regulate the process.
Slush pours into the open air. Oxygen turns it into snowflakes, even at temperatures of up to 15 degrees Celsius.
The prototype can produce up to half a cubic meter of snow per hour, and its inventors hope it will eventually draw its energy from solar panels.
According to co-inventor Fabiano Maturi, “the goal of our prototype is to give continuity to the ski season”.
“The idea is to have small production stations scattered along the ski slopes to supply snow where it’s scarce,” he adds.
The two engineers have started upgrading their prototype with the aim of building a bigger machine that will crank out 5 cubic meters of snow an hour and run on biomass or wood fire, a more environmentally-friendly source of energy.