West ski resorts struggling with snowless winter

January 8, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A snowless winter has pushed much of New Mexico into drought conditions and has left many ski resort workers unemployed or underworked.

The lack of snow has raised concerns about the volume of water it will take to keep slopes covered throughout the season if storm systems don’t arrive.

Ski Santa Fe, which has a seasonal average of 225 inches of natural snowfall, has had only 7 inches so far this winter. It has a calendar-year allotment of 22.7 million gallons of water for snowmaking, Ski Santa Fe spokesman Steven Trafk said.

Temperatures often have been too high for snowmaking, even on mountain peaks. Outside of the man-made snow officials have been dumping on ski areas since November, most slopes in the West remain dry.

A manager at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos said the workforce has been cut in half, with just two of six lifts running.

It’s not too late for an arctic blast to swoop in and salvage the current season. But the outlook for such a turnaround doesn’t appear likely, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported .

Andrew Church, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said he expects the next couple of months to be “closer to climatological averages” than the region has seen so far this winter. But the average snowfall for January in the Santa Fe area is a mere 4 inches.

“Unless the storm systems continue,” Church said, ”. we are going to be looking at a snowpack that’s far below average.”

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 5 percent of New Mexico has plunged into severe drought.

Neighboring states are suffering similar conditions.

Snow conditions have been so bad in parts of Colorado, the Aspen Skiing Co. set up a soup kitchen last month to provide free meals to underworked employees.

“As long as we can’t get those guys fully employed, we’ll keep feeding them,” a company spokesperson told The Aspen Times.

Even if storms don’t bring powder, Angel Fire Resort spokeswoman Krysty Ronchetti said the New Mexico resort has no plans of shutting down.

“We’re fully prepared to make snow the whole season if we need to,” she said.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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