The Dirty Truth about Snow-Sports: Snowmaking’s Alteration of Piste Soil Environments from the 1970s to Now

Since the 1970s, the skiing industry has taken off as a popular tourist attraction. However, in the past fifty years, the popularity of skiing was not the only thing that had risen. According to the EPA, the average temperatures have increased by 0.55°F per decade since 1979. This rise in global temperature had melted snow packs, decreasing the average ski season to below 100 days in four out of fourteen American Northeast ski areas, as reported by Daniel Scott in 2008. Moreover, Andrew Evette created a model of the potential impact of a 2°C global temperature increase in the next century on snow cover. Following this temperature pattern, he suggested a 90% decrease in the volume of snow at 1000 meters, a 50% decrease at 2000 meters, and a 35% decrease at 3000 meters in the Alps. Despite the fact that the model was built using European geographic information, it still has reference values and serves as a warning sign for North American ski resorts. To maintain the status quo and counter the drastically shortened snow seasons, American ski resorts are now grasping onto snowmaking technologies as their last resort. This podcast investigates the environmental implications that snowmaking technologies have on the slopes, with a specific focus on their effect on the pistes’ soil’s health. 

Views of Mountain Mammoth Ski Area, 2019. (Photo Credit: Dian Shi)
Soybean Leaf Infected by Pathogen Pseudomonas Syringae. Taken on January 21, 2014. Collected by Wikipedia Commons, public domain.
Skiers next to a snow machine. Taken on February 1972, Devils Nest, Nebraska. Collected by Durham Museum Photo Archives, used with permission.


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