This is a little long-winded, so I apologize in advance. Just wanted to talk about a place close to my heart and how climate change will shift what skiing is.
This story begins with Mount Bohemia. For anyone who is unfamiliar with "Boho", it is a 580 acre, 900ft drop midwest powder skier's dream. Located on the shores of Lake Superior, Boho has grown a cult following over the past 20 years for terrain and snow that is comparable to many resorts out west. It is the only taste of big mountain skiing that most midwest skiers can get, with some of the best trees I've skied, crazy amounts of snow, cat skiing, cliffs, yurts, beer, and no grooming or snowmaking. With good snow, it is truly the best skiing to be had in the midwest. All of these aspects of Boho have gotten it ranked highly on publications lists of "weird/best ski places to check out". I usually try to avoid talking about a place's "vibes" but all the Boho weirdness makes the vibes unlike any other place I've skied. Boho and a dwindling number of resorts limited infrastructure resorts are in a class of their own.
Unfortunately, this isn't going to be a happy article praising Boho. The resort has its issues, but what has happened to Boho this winter is going to become a reality for many of the remaining "wild resorts" in North America.
So let's just jump into it. Recently, Boho went to Instagram to get the thoughts of their patrons on adding snowmaking and grooming. This winter has not been good for Boho. The lack of LES bands and almost record-breaking warm temps and lack of snowfall have resulted in Boho likely not opening until February. Due to their lack of grooming and snowmaking (a big point of pride for Boho) they usually need double the snowfall of a traditional resort with snowmaking infrastructure. If it's a bad winter, they simply can't open until the lake decides to start producing those big storms the U.P. of Michigan is known for. So it seems that for Boho to protect itself during this era of climate change they must add snowmaking.
Now, unsurprisingly, Boho was met with a lot of criticism for even proposing adding snowmaking. Many claimed that it would ruin what the resort is, its history, and it's future. Those people have a point, but I still think that they are wrong. I would assume that they would blow snow for base, but keep it natural once a base is built. Much like the higher zones of many resorts out west. Now, this is where this small Midwest resort acts as an indicator for a much larger group of resorts across the country.
You may think that Boho is irrelevant and in the greater scheme of things it is. Unfortunately, I see Boho as an indicator of what is to come to all resorts that rely on natural snow; both small and large. To list a few of the at-risk resorts, Silverton, Bridger Bowl, Kicking Horse, and Alta are all going to be facing the same problems in the next decade along with many others. The fact of the matter is that we are all going to be facing warm, inconsistent winters. This may result in record-breaking storms...or record-breaking lacks of snowfall. Boho is located in an area that consistently gets over 25 ft of snow every winter. Right now we are sitting less than pretty at...4-5ft total? It's not good for any of us snow lovers. A smaller resort like Boho can manage to add infrastructure for snowmaking in a cost-effective manner but what about a place like Alta?
This is where the center of my concern lies. Larger resorts, in size, face much larger issues when it comes to snowmaking in higher, less accessible zones. Even if they do have the ability to get guns up to these zones, grooming the piles down is difficult in high, steep terrain. This is something that will affect a multitude of resorts, and unfortunately, the cost of such infrastructure gets passed down to the skiers. Resorts will face a choice of whether or not they will close runs for most days of the season, or spend millions of dollars taming the wild resorts. We face the same problem with whether or not we support these infrastructure changes. I'm not going to tell you what to think, because this is an issue that requires some thinking and self-reflection
On one hand, the additional snowmaking will allow us to keep skiing the zones we love and will allow us to continue skiing with some amount of normalcy in this weird, changing world. On the other hand, these changes will result in increased cost, a higher environmental burden, overgrooming and "dumbing down" of runs, and the reduction of the natural aspect of many of these resorts. Whether you think additional snowmaking is good, or bad, make your voice heard. Go to town hall meetings and public forums. They're boring but important. Talk to your state reps and get involved. You can either be part of it or be left behind.
Aaaaalllrigght. Not really happy news eh? The fact of the matter is, the Midwest is already hosed. The lack of lake ice and warmer temperatures are going to result in more precipitation, but that precipitation most likely won't be in its white form. All you guys out west? Start thinking about this now. It's a slow creep but it will be you guys before you know it.
So thanks for listening to a concerned midwesterners rant. I can't tell you what to do or how to change any of this because I don't know how. My hope is that this gets at least a few of you thinking about the issue, because like it or not warm temps and less snowfall are coming to a resort near you. For all you Boho fanatics, make sure to head over to their page to chime in about the snowmaking proposal. Otherwise, thanks for reading and comment what you think below. I'm gonna go scream at the sky until it snows.
Thumbnail Credit: Shaggys Copper Country Skis skishaggys.com
Photo 2 Credit: Joey Wallis
Photo 3 Credit:Onthesnow.com