Watch CBS News

Ski Resorts Forced To Address Climate Change With More Snow-Making, Green Technology

DOVER, Vt. (CBS) -- It probably comes as no surprise that winter businesses have to adapt to the changing season, none more so than ski resorts.

According to Climate Central, winters in Massachusetts are changing at a faster rate than other seasons. In fact, winter is warming about three times faster than summer.

"Since the onset of skiing as an industry, weather has been a challenge here. With climate change though, that challenge has become even greater," Adam White told WBZ-TV. White is the senior communication manager of the Northeast for Vail Resorts, the owner and operator of Mount Snow in Dover, Vermont.

At its peak of more than 3,500 feet, you'd think that Mount Snow is in prime real estate to pick up on Mother Nature's white gold, but the resort has invested heavily in snow-making. Over the last few years, more than $33 million was spent to make Mount Snow's operation one of the best in the East.

According to White, Mount Snow is capable of taking 100 acres of bare ground to a skiable level within thirty hours, as long as the temperatures cooperate.

The snow guns that any ski resort run help flatten out the ups and downs we experience during the winter -- the thaws to freezes or the wet weeks to dry stretches. Any chance that ski resorts have to open early or stay open late really depends on their snow-making technology.

Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts has seen three of their longest seasons ever in the last six years. That's something owner Jon Schaefer credits to the snow guns and his talented staff.

Berkshire East has made conscious efforts to become a 'greener' resort, investing years ago in an array of solar panels and a wind turbine. Now, with energy costs soaring, Schaefer told me, "with our investment [of the panels and turbine], we know our annual price of power and we'll know it for the coming years."

Berkshire East
Solar panels at Berkshire East. (Image credit: Berkshire East)

Loon Mountain, perched in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, has adopted a program called FlightPath 2030.

"That's our promise to be carbon neutral by 2030. We can have an impact on the future and it's important to do that sustainably," Loon's marketing manager Louise Smith told WBZ.

Smith said Loon has also invested in making their snow guns not just as energy efficient as possible, but also so they require the least amount of water necessary.

All the mountains I spoke with have gone with a more year-round model.

The idea of an 'off-season' isn't really a 'thing' anymore, said Schaefer of Berkshire East. From downhill mountain biking to mountain coasters, resorts are using the warmer months to lessen the reliance on a strong winter season. Loon Mountain and Mount Snow even use their ski lifts during the fall; a truly front-row seat to the changing colors. "Winter will always be top dog," said White, but the winter piece of the pie is getting a bit smaller.

Last winter, during the height of some COVID restrictions, Berkshire East saw a resurgence of guests from eastern Massachusetts. Schaefer says it was likely visitors who would normally travel north to some of the bigger resorts but weren't able to due to travel lockdowns. He's hoping some of last year's visitors make a return trip this winter.

All the resorts I spoke with are incredibly optimistic for what this winter holds for them, even if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate.

"We are stewards of these places, of these resorts, and taking care of that land, of that natural envelope that takes such good care of us is a really important part of what we do," White added.

WANT TO WIN A SEASON SKI PASS TO WACHUSETT? Enter the WBZ Snowfall Contest to guess the total snowfall at Logan Airport in Boston this winter. If you are the closest, you'll win a season pass for Winter 2022-2023.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.