Snowmaking creates snow by dispersing water and air-under-pressure into freezing ambient air. They can even choose whether to make it into light powder or a wet base snow (which lasts better at higher temperatures) by regulating the water content of man made snow. Still, the lower the temperature, the better for snowmaking. It usually needs to be below 25 degrees fahrenheit (-3.89 Celsius) for it to work, which is part of the reason it is done at night. The lower the humidity, the higher the temperature can be. Aaah… the miracles of modern science….
Mt. Blanc, Mont Blanc and Monte Bianco all refer to the same mountain. It has so many names because of its strategic location. It in France, viewable from Switzerland and forms part of the border with Italy. The French and Italian names mean “white mountain.” Other names for it include La Dame Blance and Il Bianco.
The trip around the alps is long and so the tunnel was an instant success, becoming one of the major trans-alp transport routes. It costs about $60 roundtrip for a car to use the tunnel. That does not include the fine you will pay if you speed over 70 km/hr or do not leave sufficient distance between you and the car in front of you. They are militant about this safe driving because in 1999 there was a fire in the tunnel that killed 39 people. We felt a bit more at ease traveling through the tunnel knowing that when the tunnel reopened in 2002, it contained additional safety features.
Mt. Blanc’s height is 4,810 m (15, 782 feet) tall. It has year-round snow. Its Bossons glacier comprises the largest ice fall in Europe. It made the news in 2007, when it grew 6 meters!
It is a center for alpine outdoor activities including: skiing, snowboarding, heliskiing, paragliding, snowshoeing, mountain climbing, trekking, hiking, mountain biking and everyone’s favorite pastime of warming themselves in cute cafes. All of this activity is not without danger and Mt. Blanc averages 100 fatalities a year and many more severe injuries. Recently, a Russian couple froze to death while attempting to climb Mt. Blanc, a body was found on a black run (he must have snuck in some night skiing), and an avalanche killed a man. Looking at a video of a Mt. Blanc avalanche on YouTube, helped me to understand their power and danger.
The Aosta Valley, where we spent the weekend, is a paradise for off piste skiing. Some of our group went off piste. Having skied a whopping three times in the last fifteen years, I was happy to stick to the reds.
Please note that these pictures are from the Italian side. Mt. Blanc’s peak is not visible as it is obscured by a lower part of the mountain when viewed from this angle.