Snow cannon, 1978, aluminium pipe with two jets, first used in Savognin.

Out of the blue sky

“Switzerland’s peaks are virtually devoid of snow, but in Savognin the snow falls from clear skies,” wrote the Bündner Tagblatt on 9 December 1978. On that day, ten snow cannons provided enough snow for a three-kilometre piste on a green slope in the canton of Graubünden. When the first major artificial snow-blowing system in Europe went into operation, this marked the dawn of a new era in winter tourism.The snow cannons that caused a stir at the time are taken for granted today in every skiing resort of any size.

Snow cannons were invented in Canada in 1940, when a team of researchers was studying the icing up of jet engines in a wind tunnel. While spraying water into a running turbine at sub-zero temperatures, the scientists had to contend with an undesirable side-effect: snow, which kept accumulating at the rear of the wind tunnel. What was an annoyance to those early researchers later became one of the biggest innovations in winter sports.

A small review of the first use of the snow cannons 1978 in Savognin. © Savognin Bergbahnen AG

Andrej Abplanalp on Wordpress
Andrej Abplanalp
Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

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