Barcelona: average temperature during the day: 20 °C (68 °F). Below zero? Hardly ever. Nearest skiing resort in winter: less than 2 hours away in the Pyrenees. Regardless, an artificial indoor ski slope in Barcelona is underway for 2015. Ski Dubai, an indoor ski hall in the desert, has inspired businesses in Barcelona to build one too, in a redevelopment area of La Zona Franca, to boost the local economy. At least, Barcelona's Snow World will be carbon-neutral; the first of its kind!
The Dutch company SnowWorld, builders of Ski Dubai, got together with B01 Arquitectes in Barcelona in order to make sure that this indoor ski resort has a smaller ecological footprint than its precedents. A 39,000 m2 dome should house a ski hill as well as an ice skating ring. All this in the name of sustainable redevelopment of a currently disused industrial area into a residential neighborhood, and its Snow World, south of the city. According to the Guardian this month, both the housing area as well as the snow dome “will be served by three plants generating heating and air-conditioning streams, fueled by methanisation, solar power and plant waste from the city, primarily from Collserola, the world's largest metropolitan park. For the industrial cooling side, taking temperatures down to -10º C, the designers plan to use the regasification facilities at Barcelona's liquid natural gas terminal.”
As Erik Trinidad explains on Discovery Channel, "Liquefied Natural Gas is shipped to Barcelona’s ports, and when seawater is used to warm it up from subzero temperatures in order to return it a gaseous state, the by-product is cool energy — which can then be harnessed and used as a refrigerant for building air-conditioning — and making snow if all goes well with approvals.” That way, the cool energy is prevented form going into the sea and upsetting sea life, and recycled into something (a little bit more) useful. If all goes as planned, Barcelona's Snow World will be the first to be carbon-neutral.
It would be interesting to measure its real impact on the environment. Is it better to hop on public transport to ski on an artificial carbon-neutral slope in the city or should we travel all the way to the mountains (and only in winter) to sky? Do people in Barcelona need to go to the beach and ski, all in the same day? Skiing in the open has some serious environmental impacts as well, but at least there's a connection with nature at the same time, and, green ski resorts are possible. Could the cool energy from the gas industry be used for something more crucial? Should we not use gas? ... The questions can go back a great deal and here in Barcelona they are if you listen to talk shows and the papers. Let's see if the city council approves the project. In a recent TV interview they stated that they have currently more pressing problems to solve, so it could be a while.