The snowpack structure of a World Cup course
Snow conditions on the slalom course explained by Christian Schroll, Deputy Slope Manager on the Ganslern slope.
Freshly snow-covered slopes are only a true pleasure for aesthetes and powder fans. For Christian Schroll it means work, a lot of work: "When heavy snowfall sets in, we work incredibly long days," says the Deputy Slope Manager on the Ganslern slope "and not infrequently long nights as well". There is now lots more work for him and his 40-strong team on the Slalom slope this weekend, than had it not snowed. Because the hill has been ready for days, but fresh snow doesn't suit it at all: "As soon as you have a closed layer of fresh snow on the racecourse, the snow underneath becomes increasingly soft. That's why this snow has to be removed, so that cold air can get onto the surface of the slope again and the compact structure is maintained," explains Christian Schroll, who has been working at the Hahnenkamm Races for 20 years. In the next few hours, a lot of work with shovels, blowers and quads with ploughs is likely to take place on the Ganslern, because up to 30 - 50 centimetres of fresh snow are forecast for Saturday.
Beyond clearing snow, Christian Schroll, Piste Manager Stefan Lindner and their team are responsible for “producing the perfect piste." To achieve this, they try to mix natural and artificial snow "evenly and homogeneously, in order to have the same uniform structure on the entire Ganslern," explains Christian Schroll. "For this, the snow crystals should be as small as possible and mixing works best with the rototiller attached to the back of the slope groomer." And why all this effort? "The more compressed the snow structure, the heavier the snow weight. The heavier the snow weight, the more compact the slope." Compactness is so important, because you want to give every athlete who starts the race the same chance to get a good placing. "If athletes with a high starting number still finish up front, that's a good sign. It shows that there were good piste conditions from first to last." And what does Christian Schroll think when he hears that World Cup courses are too icy? “Whoever says the slope is icy doesn't have good edges," he answers with a grin and elaborates: “The slope offers a good grip.”
Photo © K.S.C. / alpinguin