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Inside the High-Dollar Fight to Save California Skiing

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Everyone knows that despite a recent storm, drought-ravaged California hasn't seen much powder this winter. As of March 11, the Tahoe Basin snowpack is at only 19% of average without much moisture in sight. And one of the most popular ski areas in the region, Heavenly Resort, has seen only 73 inches of snow so far this season compared to their annual average of 360 inches. That's why a recent Bloomberg article, "Fake Snow, Real Money: The High-Tech Fight to Save California Skiing," is so timely. Author Evelyn Spence provides an insider's look at Heavenly's advanced snow-making system and the expensive fight to save skiing in California. Curbed Ski breaks down some of the most interesting (and depressing!) facts.

What it takes to ski at Heavenly when there is no snow:
1. It takes a crew of 38 employees at Heavenly to make snow.

2. Heavenly has more than 200 air water guns, boom guns, and Super PoleCat fan guns to make snow. The resort also boasts 30,000 feet of pipes and hoses.

3. Heavenly's snowmaking system can cover 73% of the resort's 4,800 acres.

4. This year's snowpack in Tahoe could be the lowest on record.

Indications that this isn't just an issue in Tahoe:

5. Dry weather has decimated California's $1.3 billion ski industry. During last season's drought (final numbers aren't available for this season yet), skier visits were down 28 percent from 2010-2011.

6. Resorts without snowmaking survive on a hand-to-mouth existence. Sierra-at-Tahoe only has 6 older snow guns, so the resort collects snow from decks and parking lots and hauls it up the slopes.

7. This is a global problem: "Among the 19 cities that have hosted the winter Olympics—including Calgary, Chamonix, Nagano, and Oslo—the average February temperature is up to 46 degrees, up from 32 in the 1920s."

8. Warmer temperatures will make it harder to make snow: "At 20 degrees, it's easy and takes relatively low power and relatively little water," says Jordy Hendrikx, director of Montana State University's Snow and Avalanche Laboratory. "At 32, it takes huge amounts of both to make low-quality snow, and there isn't a lot of it."

9. To combat the problem of snow, more and more ski areas are developing year-round activities.

10. Industry exec Bill Jenson predicts that environmental changes and economic factors will cause at least 150 of the current 470 ski resorts in the United States to close.

So there you have it, Curbediverse. Is this just a bad winter for Tahoe and the rest of the west? Or ominous signs of things to come?

· Fake Snow, Real Money: The High-Tech Fight to Save California Skiing [Bloomberg]
· Ski Industry Expert Says 31% of Today's Ski Areas Are Dying [Curbed Ski]
· Checking in on the Snowpack After the West's Latest Storms [Curbed Ski]
· NYT Writes Incredibly Depressing Article on California Drought [Curbed Ski]