Making Snow While the Sun Shines
Thanksgiving weekend was not a holiday my Canadian family would miss me for. So having grown up skiing in the hills of Northern British Columbia, and currently living in Southern California it was time to find snow!
A friend of mine and I planned on Utah – I was told the snow there was like no other place on earth. And the mountains are the most breathtaking backdrop to ones' decent.
I watched the snow report religiously and each day closer to take-off I pleaded with the snow gods more and more often. There wasn’t any snow and none on the horizon. But plane tickets were bought and well... it was a weekend away, so off we went.
[Not a cloud in the sky. Photo: Snow]
If it weren’t for the fact I was wearing a down sweater, the mountains around Salt Lake City would have told you that it could have been spring, or fall, or even summer. The weather sites weren’t lying, there really was no snow! But at Thanksgiving dinner, the buzz was that Solitude had a run open and Park City as well. So we had a destination in the morning.
The drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon was majestic, but dry. There were three chairlifts open and about 1 ½ runs open, not the best ratio. It took about 6 times down that one run and it was time to call it a day.
Next day we tried Park City and the ridiculousness of my journey hit me like a lightening bolt. The whole hill was bare save a line of white fans making modern skiing. I don’t know which thought caused the nausea in my stomach first: the lack of snow, the insane amount of energy it was taking to make the snow, or my involvement in all of this insanity. Man-made snow requires not only great amounts of water but energy to run the machines and pump in the water and compressed air to form the snowflakes.
Skiing was invented to move people in the winter. It was humans adapting to the weather of where they lived. Were we ever supposed to be creating weather in order to get in some runs? This spawned lots of discussions about what is causing the late season, you can bet global warming came up a few times.
But skiing is a big business now, not only for the ski hills and communities, but all of the brands that make gear for winter sports. Patagonia is just one of those brands. So I feel right in the cycle of this mess, I work for a company that needs cold weather right now so we can stay in business by selling our jackets. My paycheck bought me my plane ticket, adding to the global warming crisis. I came to ski, adding more fuel to the fire that if you make it they will come. And then there is all the energy to run the snow machines, the lift, and the amenities on the mountain – more energy, more C02.
It is a scary dance we are all in right now. As the climate changes, so do our behaviors and our expectations.
I can’t imagine it nor do I want to, but is skiing going to be a thing of the past? It is a struggle to know that I am a part of the problem, but also wanting to play in the snow. I guess next time I am going to sit tight and wait for the real snow to fall. And work on Delta to start flying hydrogen jets…? Or maybe I’ll have to just suck it up and learn how to surf.
[A sad sight indeed. Photo: Snow]