The tunnel is divided into two sections lengthwise – for both cross country skiing and for roller skating.If you’ve ever tried skiing on a cold, windy day, you know that it can be a painful experience. But an Israeli company based on a northern kibbutz has developed an ingenious way for skiers to remain on the slopes while keeping the feeling in their limbs and face – a ski tunnel.
Specializing in the manufacture of polycarbonate (PC) sheets, Polygal Plastics Industries used its expertise to build what it claims is the world’s first one kilometer long ski tunnel in Finland. The tunnel is constructed exclusively with nine millimeter wide insulating materials, allowing for skiing throughout the entire year in an area that does not generally have much snow.
Polygal products provide solutions for skylights, solarium structures, greenhouses, illuminated signs, pools, industrial packaging, DIY projects and many more applications. But a ski tunnel was a first, even for them.
The tunnel is divided into two sections lengthwise – half covered with snow for cross country skiing with temperatures in the 20s Farenheight, and the other half designated for roller-skating on asphalt with a steamy mid-40s temperature. Erected in the northwest Finland town of Uusikaupunki, the tunnel was quarried and built in granite rock and has twists and slopes.
The achievement won the company a ‘best innovation’ award from the European Polycarbonate Sheet Extruders (EPSE) association in Europe, which consolidates most of the manufacturers of polycarbonate sheets.
According to Polygal’s technical support man Roman Zalessky, the challenge of the project was to design windows which give natural light to a space and provide thermal insulation. Polygal’s unique Selectogal sheet, which is characterized by prisms in the outer wall facing the sun was chosen for walls of the tunnel. These prisms selectively reflect a percentage of the heat from the sun and do not allow it to enter the structure. In this way maximum natural light is allowed to enter the tunnel and heat is minimized to a desired level, he explained.
“We spent a lot of time experimenting with materials to see what would work best for a project like this. It’s very effective at keeping cold temperatures and wind out,” Zalessky told ISRAEL21c.
“It was actually the idea of our distributor in Finland – it was his brainchild,” said Zalessky adding that as a result of the exposure given to the ski tunnel with the award, there is already interest in creating similar projects in other parts of Finland as well as the United States.
It’s a big achievement for a company that was established by two kibbutzim – Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet and Kibbutz Megido – in 1973, originally for production of polypropylene sheets. The new enterprise was supported by an Israeli government effort to place Israel at the forefront of the plastics industry, against the backdrop of the oil crisis of the 1970s.
“Polypropylene sheets were a simple answer to the rising costs of the price of oil and raw materials,” said Zalessky.
In 1982 Polygal became the first company in the world to produce hollow, multi-wall sheets from polycarbonate – a material developed in the 1960s for industrial applications – and since then has been leading the industry in the development and production of the most sophisticated sheets in the world.
According to Zalessky, in the past two years Polygal has expanded production overseas and established additional new factories. The company also has a long-time marketing subsidiary in the United States.
“Over 100 people work for Polygal, mostly in Israel, but some in our factories in Moscow and Chile and in our North Carolina distribution center,” said Zalessky.
No doubt, the company vacation next year will be for skiing in Uusikaupunki.