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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Retro Kitchens Are Everywhere—and the Ultimate Rejection of the Sterile Luxury Trend

Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

By TRACY KALER
Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
Native House Photography

Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
DLux Editions

Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”

MOST POPULAR
35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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