Numerous ski areas across Europe and the Mid-East make winter sports available to athletes year round with the use of artificial snow surfaces. These regions experience little to no snow annually, making snow sports virtually impossible prior to the introduction of these man-made slopes. These regions include regions such as England, with more rain than snow, and have recently made their appearance in the United States. Below is a cross section and overview of the surface used to simulate a snow covered hill.
Artificial snow surfaces are gaining popularity in Virginia, Michigan and Connecticut. With the growing unpredictability of winter storms, these resorts are looking to expand beyond just the winter season. Green Ice Wax’s chemist paid a visit to a Connecticut facility to check out it out for himself. He found a surface comprised of plastic and containing silicone embedded in the polymer. The silicone reduces the friction and allows the ski or board to slide more freely.
“The material is quite hard and will be abrasive on skies or boards. However, the material’s ‘finger like’ design allows the skier to turn on edge.” – The Chemist
These resorts recommend that skiers and riders wear long sleeve shirts and long pants with elbow and knee pads , as well as gloves to protect in case of a fall. The hill also requires preparation to make for a smooth and cushioned ride. There are three layers of material under the snow surface. Two layers of a felt material which sandwich a plastic mesh and are then screwed into place on the hill.
Since the plastic creates a coarse surface, riding on it generates high amounts of friction, and thus heat. Waxing skis will not totally protect the base, but will help performance on the hill. It is recommended to use a hard wax such as Green Ice Wax 1000 Cold. Be prepared for a damaged base, regardless of the quantity or hardness of the wax.
Artificial snow surfaces provide skiing and riding all year round. Racers can use the practice hill to increase stamina and muscle memory. The resort gains an advantage to start the snow ski season earlier as less snow will be required to cover the hill; there is no grass or rough terrain to cover.
Anyone with experience on an artificial slope is welcome to leave us a comment! Let us know what you think and how your bases fared after a day on the (fake) snow!!