With five indoor ski centers in the Netherlands, SnowWorld now offers more people the chance to enjoy the fun of winter sports almost on their doorstep. Cutting-edge technology and a strong desire to become more sustainable are the driving forces behind a much greater ambition. Read about how it also wants to bring Europe round to its way of thinking.

Wim Hubrechtsen, CEO of SnowWorld, explains how it all started nearly 25 years ago: “Koos Hendriks was the original founder and he wanted to ‘bring the ski experience home’. There weren’t really any indoor slopes with snow back then. The first SnowWorld center was soon built in Zoetermeer, followed by a second one, in Landgraaf. SnowWorld went public in 2012 and has been a listed company ever since.” Its ambition is to continue its European growth: “And the focus is not just on the winter sports experience. We also want to ‘bring the best of the Alps home’.”

The recipe for good snow

Wim Hubrechtsen, CEO of SnowWorld
Wim Hubrechtsen, CEO of SnowWorld

When people are skiing, they don’t think about what it takes to make good snow. Hubrechtsen: “You can’t have snow without water, and you can’t have snow without low temperatures either. There’s some sophisticated technology behind the snow on our slopes. The challenge in making it is the limited height of the ski center. That means we have to be creative and try to keep the snow crystals in the air for longer. What we’re actually doing is influencing the airtime to ensure that the water can reach freezing point at the right time.” If all goes well, the result is perfect snow that delivers a real winter sports experience: “Snow that’s not too airy and not too compact.”

International athletes just love the quality of the snow at SnowWorld.”–Wim Hubrechtsen, CEO of SnowWorld

Going beyond stock solutions

Sustainability is a priority for SnowWorld: “We go beyond stock solutions. For instance, we took a good look at our own systems. Our aim is to make best possible use of all the ‘lost’ heat that’s generated by the refrigeration plant. We now collect this residual heat and use it, for example, to heat our buildings and offices.”

Further optimization

GEA refrigeration and heat pump plant in SnowWorld
GEA refrigeration and heat pump plant in SnowWorld

In 2016 slope 3 at SnowWorld Zoetermeer was extended and the refrigeration installation was upgraded: “In our new machine room with a complete customized GEA refrigeration installation, designed to keep the ski center at the right temperature. There is also an Add-on heat pump installed which is used for sequential defrosting the coolers and heating the restaurant and offices. The introduction of a heat pump ensures we make optimal use of residual heat. Since we started using this type of heat pump, our energy consumption has been halved and we have enough heat left over. Together with GEA, we’re currently talking to neighboring companies to see how we can best utilize all the residual heat.”

Circular snow

Efforts to create a better world also start with responsible water consumption, Hubrechtsen points out: “Water and cold are our primary resources when making snow, so we harvest as much water as possible from the melting snow. This enables us to optimize the use of water and heat.” Sustainability is also high on the agenda in other areas: “Wherever possible, we group deliveries of goods, aiming for just one truckload a day so as to reduce road mileage.”

Suppliers are partners

It’s essential for SnowWorld that its partners share the same values: “Sustainability must also be a key priority for them. That’s why we deliberately choose to work with partners we can always rely on. If, for example, our cooling system fails, then it’s all hands-on deck. At times like that, we know we can count on GEA.”

40% CO2 reduction

GEA customized refrigeration system with GEA Omni control panel
GEA customized refrigeration system with GEA Omni control panel

"Using the heat pump helped us reduce our CO2 emissions by 40% at the Zoetermeer ski center. We’re now examining the current figures and they look even better than they did two years ago", says Hubrechtsen.

Indoor skiing set to become ‘sustainable alternative’

Indoor skiing is increasingly being seen as a sustainable alternative to skiing in the mountains, says Hubrechtsen: “Winter sports areas are already struggling to create the best conditions. In the future, ski resorts will also have indoor slopes – that’s a trend you can see worldwide, from Norway to China.” And ultimately, everything hinges on the right technology and a desire to be sustainable: “If you keep the door closed properly to conserve energy, the temperature will stay at the right level and the snow quality will be ideal for longer.”

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