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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

Outside the Box (and Season) Thinking

I’ve talked about seismic shifts in industries before. If your business relies heavily on the weather or climate to be successful, you need to consider how to combat the changes coming or pivot. For vintners, that may be changing the grape you grow to meet the profile of your new-er climate. For ski resorts, snow-making capabilities are not new…but there is something better: using real snow.

Wait, what? If the globe is warming and snow less likely, reliable and abundant, how?

Snow stockpiling.

This is a practice, pioneered in Finland, where snow from the end of one season is collected and stored under a tent of insulated mats, then spread out again the next year to lay down a base layer. This also means the snow cannons don’t need to be used, which saves on electricity and water. Using snow cannons early to create the base layer is impacted by variable temperatures and the likelihood of rain. But with a natural base layer already there, it matters less.

The snow farming practice started in 2016 after repeated cancellations of World Cup skiing races and expanded to operations for visitor ski runs and cross-country tracks. The average loss from melt between seasons under the mats is only 13%. When there is snow, the season starts, lifts open, people come and the resorts stay alive and their employees paid. Music to a business continuity professional’s ears.

The countries hosting the Winter Olympics have been doing something similar since as early as 2014 due to the lack of snow at the Vancouver games in 2010.

This practice is being adopted all over the world and not just for major sporting events. In Davos, Switzerland, for example, they are making snow for the purposes of stockpiling in December and January (when conditions are ideal for the cannons), to lay down for a cross-country skiing trail at the end of October, losing about 20% to melt during the storage time…which naturally they will account for and make 20% more than they need for the next year. Man-made snow is also more compact, so better for stockpiling.

I’m a skier and there is nothing I love more than fresh powder and hate more than a base depth less than 90 inches, which happens more and more unless I travel to high altitude places. I know what is ski-able on my skis without damaging them for resorts that must rely 100% on cannons. I avoid even going to those resorts, but sometimes you can’t be picky if getting time on skis matters most.

I’m loving how the industry as a whole is being proactive, doing things that make sense, taking inspired action, and using the resources they have in the most efficient way to keep their entire business alive and thriving. Just imagine what you can do. Thinking outside the box makes you a winner.

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