How Skiing Can Survive Climate Change
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How Skiing Can Survive Climate Change

From artificial clouds to autonomous snow-grooming vehicles, here are 12 ways for ski areas to weather warmer temperatures and less snow.

By BENOIT MORENNE
Tue, Feb 16, 2021 1:22amGrey Clock 5 min

Downhill skiing could become an increasingly exotic proposition in a warming world. By midcentury, the U.S. could see 90 fewer days below freezing each year, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Climate and based on data from the federally funded North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program. Nearly all ski areas in the U.S. are projected to have at least a 50% shorter season by 2050, according to a 2017 study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and published in the Global Environmental Change journal.

Higher temperatures make snow more elusive on the slopes, cutting into revenues for ski areas. Low snow years between 1999 and 2010 already cost ski areas an estimated $1 billion in revenue, according to a 2012 analysis commissioned by the nonprofits Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Today, ski areas run snow guns 24/7 as soon as cold weather hits and send GPS-guided snowcat vehicles to the slopes to distribute snowpack. Snow-making technologies are making rapid advances and could alleviate some of the burden of weather volatility. Winter skiing could also be less of a focus as resorts become year-round destinations and offer more activities. Climate change presents ski areas with an opportunity to reduce their own carbon footprint by switching to cleaner energy sources.

From autonomous snowcats to solar-powered properties, take a look at what ski resorts might look like in the coming years.

 

Enhanced Snowfalls

Modifying clouds to boost mountain snowpack, or cloud seeding, has been done over Colorado’s ski areas for decades, but was scientifically proven effective only last year. It involves using generators to spray silver iodide into a frigid cloud to turn water droplets into snow, and it can increase snowfalls by up to 15%, says Neil Brackin, the CEO of Colorado-based Advanced Radar Co., a firm that sells weather radar systems. Tomorrow’s generators may be more accurate and deliver more advanced seeding materials into the sky, Mr Brackin says. Cloud-seeding programs could cost ski areas $100,000 to $1 million annually, he says.

Fleets of Artificial Clouds

Neuschnee GmbH, an Austrian startup, has invested more than $2.2 million to develop a balloon-shaped chamber that artificially recreates a snow-making cloud. Ice particles injected into a wooden-framed structure propped on steel rods and wrapped in nylon membranes bind to water droplets to make up to 1,000 cubic feet of snowflakes a day, enough to fill a midsize truck. Founder Michael Bacher says ski resorts could use the technology to give runs a natural feel and imagines a future where operators deploy fleets of autonomous artificial clouds. The company is looking for new partnerships to continue development.

Mountain Biking Is the New Skiing

Developing downhill mountain biking as a seasonal complement to winter sports could let the industry maximize the summer season and diversify revenue streams, says Rob McSkimming, a mountain resort development consultant at Select Contracts, a Canada-based tourism consulting firm. Ski areas could invest more in lift infrastructure like bike carriers and repurpose snow making systems into irrigation systems that water biking trails. “Good dirt is like good snow,” Mr McSkimming says.

Dry Slopes

Mr Snow, a German startup, sells a carpetlike faux ski hill that rolls out like a mat and has an arrangement of loops on the surface that reproduces gliding sensations, says Jens Reindl, one of the company’s founders. Mr Reindl says the product is beginner-friendly and could become popular in low-altitude ski resorts near urban centres. The mat, which is available for sale in the U.S., comes in modular 65-by-6.5-foot patches and costs $120 for every 10 square feet.

Doing More With Less

In the future, it may take skiers more twists and turns to reach the bottom of the slope as ski operators seek to have more people use the same patches of snow, says Joe Hession, the majority owner of Mountain Creek Resort in New Jersey. Moving snow blocks to create more jumps, rails, gradual hills and big turns could allow resorts to focus their snow-making capacity on selected segments and do more with less terrain, he says.

Smart Snow-Grooming

Today, snowcat operators drive vehicles equipped with sensors, GPS receivers and tablets to visualize snow depth and distribute fresh snowpack. Mr. Hession sees a day when driverless snowcats wirelessly feed terrain data to automated snow guns that pump out snow on shallow spots more accurately. The ski industry might need to hire more highly skilled and higher paid employees to manage these remote systems, he says.

More Efficient Snow Guns

Temperature increases mean ski resorts will have shrinking windows of cold weather to produce artificial snow, says Brian Fairbank, chairman of the Fairbank Group, which operates three ski resorts in the Northeastern U.S. More efficient, cheaper snow guns that pump out more snow could help make up for this change. One recent innovation is the “Sledgehammer,” a $3,150 snow gun developed by Fairbank that it says converts twice as much water into snow per hour as traditional machines and performs better at higher temperatures for about half the price.

Green-Powered Resorts

Ski resorts could increasingly turn to green infrastructure like solar panels and wind turbines with the goal to operate 100% on renewable power and diminish their own carbon footprints. Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado purchases most of its electricity from green sources year-round, including a 25-acre off-site solar farm. Mountain Creek Resort relies on goats to mow the grass on the slopes in the summer rather than use fuel-intensive machinery. More operators are expected to adopt renewable energy in the future, says Adrienne Saia Isaac, the director of marketing and communications at the National Ski Areas Association, an industry group. “We as an industry can’t simply rely on pivoting to summer business as a climate change solution,” she says.

Making Snow When It’s Not Freezing

The Italian startup Nevexn has developed Snow4Ever Thermal, a container-size chiller that freezes water to make up to 1,700 cubic feet of snow a day, almost enough to cover a tennis court with a foot of snow, at above-freezing temperatures. The machine uses solar thermal energy and energy from burning biomass such as wood pellets. The company developed the system with a $2.1 million grant from the European Union and tested it in the Italian Dolomites last year, says Francesco Besana, a co-founder. It plans to commercialize it in the coming years.

From Ski Resorts to Entertainment Resorts

Ziplines, climbing walls, water attractions and mountain roller coasters could be increasingly offered year-round as resorts endeavour to be less reliant on winter sports. This shift could come with a new focus on immersive educational experiences like night walks and light shows that introduce visitors to a mountain’s geological history, says Mr McSkimming of Select Contracts.

Indoor Skiing

Indoor ski areas could make up for seasonal variations and provide access to new markets in urban areas, says Dr Natalie Ooi, the director of tourism enterprise programs at Colorado State University. Big Snow American Dream, the country’s first indoor ski area, opened in New Jersey in 2019 and could provide a blueprint for future investments. It boasts a 4-acre skiable area that operates at minus two degrees celsius and has a 48-metre vertical drop, four lifts and snow guns.

Passes, Passes, Passes

Customers could get much better deals by pre-buying season passes to access more resorts, including internationally, as the industry moves to insulate revenues from weather variations, says David Perry, an executive vice president at Alterra Mountain Co., the ski-resort giant. He anticipates passes will represent 60-70% of Alterra’s ticket sales in the coming years, up from 40-50% today. Resorts could also start selling megapasses valid both in summer and winter, says Auden Schendler, a senior vice president in charge of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Co.

 



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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