▲ Mammoth Mountain, US
In contrast to the Alps, North America has experienced good conditions in recent years, with 110% of normal snowfall recorded in the Pacific Northwest in 2016/17, and 115% in the Northeast.
Californian resorts experienced exceptionally good seasons, with Squaw Valley and Mammoth seeing 158% and 174% of their usual snowfall respectively, allowing the latter to extend its season into August.
While this means better skiing and longer seasons, exceptional volumes of snowfall make reaching the resorts more difficult, and bring a greater risk of avalanches.
Responding to the challenge
From new snowmaking technology to diversifying activities and environmental awareness
Shorter, more inconsistent ski seasons have forced ski resorts and regions to adapt. The development of snowmaking technologies means that snow-starved slopes can be topped up (assuming temperatures are low enough), ensuring the availability of skiing even when conditions are poor. Austrian resorts alone have invested €1 billion in snowmaking in the past decade.
Resorts are doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint and their own contribution to climate change. Vail resorts, for example, are actively managing their energy usage, finding the most efficient ways to groom the slopes, and installing solar power technology.
Indoor snow slopes, traditionally found in locations without any kind of natural skiing, are now being planned for ski resorts. Tignes, one of Europe’s highest resorts, plans to invest €62 million in a 400m-long indoor slope to enable skiing 365 days a year.
Big ski resorts are diversifying heavily into new activities. Water parks, spas, zip lines, golf and music festivals help balance demand between skiers and non-skiers, supporting more consistent operations throughout the year.
Lobby groups are on the rise, too. Organisations such as Protect Our Winters, set up by high-profile winter-sports enthusiasts, aim to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on the industry and influence policy across party lines at the highest level.