ThE gravel Ski slope
One of the more interesting ideas for an artificial surface ski slope was put forward in 1958 by German industrialist Dr Rudolf Alberti.
Alberti owned a mining operation in the country’s Harz Mountains. Established in 1958 and still in operation today as Deutsche Baryt-Industrie, the company produced barium sulphates and calcium fluoride.
Dr Alberti, a keen skier, took an interest in the waste product of the production process, known as baryt. He noticed that the gravel-like material had a very low friction co-efficient and was also substantially dust free. So he is reported to have had a large amount of the baryt spread over a steep slope in early 1958 creating a ski run some 400 metres long by 20 metres wide to a depth of around 15cm.
The slope actually proved fairly successful when skied, the main problem Dr Alberti had was that his conventional skis rapidly disintegrated, so he commissioned Fritz Schafer to build him some metal based skis, which apparently performed much more successfully.
To increase speed over the gravel doctor Alberti is reported to have added light engine oil to the gravel surface which is reported to have, “dramatically increased speed producing some hair-raising results and near disastrous falls.”
It is not clear if the slope was ever operated as a commercial venture but in May 1958 Doctor Alberti was granted a patent number 3,088,580 for his “ski surface and process of forming same.”
The description of the surface is as described above but Doctor Alberti also details that the gravel mixture should contain pebbles of between .02 and ,6 of an inch in size.
The Alberti name is still associated with skiing to this day though St. Andreasberg where Alberti-Lifts run a small ski area at St. Andreasberg in the Harz Mountains still.