Design implications of snow deposition problems in ski resort areas

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The rapid development of ski resorts has added to environmental problems. In these environments, snow deposition and its accompanying problems are a major element in architectural design and planning.

The objectives of this research were to investigate the background of ski resort development and the problems encountered in their design, construction, and operation. The research undertaken found specific areas of systematic problem solution to be necessary, including the use of historical and indigenous building techniques, related modern technology, detailed site analysis, field testing, and wind tunnel testing.

Observation of ski resorts in New England revealed that ice and snow accumulation are major problems and present hazards to pedestrians, vehicles, and structures.

Field tests of flat, restricted area roofs were conducted at Snowshoe, West Virginia to discover the possible applications of ice expansion problems in test models. It was observed that expansion and contraction of ice on the roof resulted in structural damage.

Wind tunnel testing was used to determine applications of drifting and migration patterns of snow. Buildings with larger surface areas exposed to the wind create more diffuse wind eddy patterns at ground level and less movement of simulated snow. Increased building size in the downwind direction created less movement. Vegetation was found to provide shelter for and inhibit snow drifting around models placed near it.