Ski resorts, farmers united in concern over lack of snow

Getting some skiing in this season may not be as easy as booking a flight to the slopes. With less than stellar bases, ski resorts all over the country say they are seeing fewer visitors due to a lack of snow. And that deficit is leading them to keep runs closed longer or write off the entire winter as not worth the money to even open.

Colorado Snow Surveryor, Mage Skordahl, says her state’s accumulation is down 30 percent, which is bad news for skiing facilities. About five miles from some of Colorado’s famous ski slopes, Skordahl measures the less than impressive pack. “What we’re measuring here is similar to what they’re getting,” Skordahl says.

Vail Resorts says visits are down 15.3 percent compared with last season, and has been forced to leave some areas closed. The company, which operates multiple properties in Colorado, Wyoming and California, says snow making machines have helped them keep their Lake Tahoe resorts open.

It’s a similar story in Vermont, where skiers must be on the lookout for thinning layers of base snow. “You gotta watch where you’re going,” one skier says. “Most of the runs they have open, they’re clear. There’s a couple of spots you do see some grass poking through, but it’s pretty easy to spot.”

Back in Colorado, Helayn Storch says her ski’s are getting a beating. “We ski back country and there just isn’t that much snow. You hit a lot of rocks and trees, compared to other years.” Last year, Colorado was enjoying the result of a booming winter that delivered 200 percent above normal in snowfall. It was so much snow, there were widespread fears of flooding during the Spring melt.

This year, farmers are worried.

“We are definitely keeping our fingers crossed for much more snowfall. Our future depends on it,” Marc Arnusch, a Colorado onion grower said. Arnusch says figuring out how to manage less water this season could mean some of his acres will go idle. 

As a result, consumers, he says, will likely pay more at the grocery store. “If we have a cut in water supplies by approximately 25-30 percent, we’re gonna have to do things differently,” Arnusch says. 

“When a producer isn’t able to bring his crop to the marketplace, the supply dwindles. Costs rise. And consumers pay more for their food than they ever have before.”

What agriculture industry folks like Arnusch have in common with those who run the ski resorts is optimism. Both agree that with plenty of winter left in the season, there is always potential for Mother Nature to deliver.

“We need feet of snow,” Helayn Storch explains. “But if it gets 5 inches, you know, every 5 days. That will do it. Should do it. Hopefully will do it.”

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