Ski resort turns sewage into snow

Unpredictable snowfall patterns and drought are prompting the multibillion-dollar industry to consider cost-effective alternatives.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 1, 2013 9:18AM
After a dismal start to the season for the second straight year, Colorado's ski resorts are finally getting the snow they depend on. Colorado Ski Country USA reported total skier visits at its 21 member resorts dropped 11.5% during the first period of the ski season, which ranges from opening day through New Year's Eve.

The marketing research firm IBISWorld reports that while the economic recovery is expected to bring more people to the nation's slopes, climate change is straining operations at many resorts. When natural snowfall can't be relied on, resorts resort to making their own snow. But man-made snow has its own challenges.

Environmental Research Web says about 30% of the water used in snow production is lost to evaporation -- and that the process puts additional stress on water supplies and ecosystems in areas that have only limited water resources.

The lack of dependable, natural snow is prompting some in the industry to take controversial measures. The Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff has become the first ski resort to use only effluent water for its artificial snow.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. Forest Service says the treated water is already used to keep many parks and golf courses green, and is treated to a standard just below drinking water level. And in the case of Arizona Snowbowl, a regional forester told the Times the artificial snow "allows for a more consistent ski season, bringing money into neighboring Flagstaff, which contracted to sell Snowbowl the water from its sewage treatment plant."

But the project has come under fire from several directions. Local Native American groups consider the mountain sacred and unsuccessfully fought in court to halt what they consider a desecration. Environmentalists, meanwhile, believe chemicals and bacteria found in the effluent water may be harmful to the local environment, as well as to skiers and snowboaders.

But analysts say using effluent water may become a national trend.

"The utilization of alternatives to pure water is the wave of the future,” John Rosenberg, fund manager at Loughlin Water Partners LP, recently told Bloomberg. “It seems almost inevitable, unless we find another means of making snow.”

There's a lot of money at stake here. IBISWorld reports U.S. snow and ski resorts bring in about $3 billion in revenue, and that has increased annually by 1.4% between 2007 and last year.

More on moneyNOW

Feb 1, 2013 12:37PM
New meaning to DON"T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW !!
Feb 1, 2013 12:38PM
What you also didn't mention is that the ski 'resort' is built on the west side of the mountain - quite literally the hottest, sunniest place to build it - dumb. 
And the statement that the ski 'bowel' brings more money into neighboring Flagstaff is  patently wrong. A study was conducted in the early 2000s and it proved absolutely NO difference to the economy of Flagstaff whether ski bowel was open or not. If there isn't a lot of snow, Flagstaff gets revenue as people spend their time and money in Flagstaff rather than on the slopes; restaurants, shops, and many collateral sports benefit when there is less snow. Hence the motto: "Ski Bowel: Where the Affluent Meet the Effluent".
Feb 1, 2013 2:06PM
Using treated effluent for watering large landscaped areas and producing man made snow is an excellent idea.  Treated effluent should also be used for irrigation of crops. Using drinking water for these purposes is a waste of a valuable resource.  If a bear goes in the woods and no one is there to see it, is that desecrating sacred land?
Feb 1, 2013 1:23PM

Environmentalists, meanwhile, believe chemicals and bacteria found in the effluent water may be harmful to the local environment, as well as to skiers and snowboaders.



     So the crackheads think it's better to flush it out into the ecosystem without letting it get filtered by any plants or soils and they also think that with the fresh water shortage we are starting to experiance with this countries underground water tables it would be better to use all "clean" water for this process.  Those people aren't happy unless they are out causing trouble and what they don't realize is that in todays day and age all they do is make things worse and alot of times their "environmental" protest wind up causing MORE damage to the environment than if they had just shut up and stayed out of the way.

Feb 1, 2013 2:12PM

Going from shitty skiing to shitty skiing!:)

Feb 1, 2013 2:22PM
Could they have found a more out of date "stock footage" picture of a skier for this story?  Those skis were antiques a decade ago...
Feb 1, 2013 2:09PM

I live in western Pennsylvania close to one of the Snow making Pioneers family Owned Resort.

The Water used for many years there for Snowmaking had recycled water from The Treatment facility at the Resort. (Passing DER release to enviroment guidelines)

The Skii Patrol was aware of this fact and extra care is taken in this regard.

The extra particles in this water fourmed a much better snow chrystal than spring water could and created a fluffier more natural type of man made snow. 

Feb 2, 2013 11:25AM
avatar a resident of Flagstaff I do not have access to ANY recycled water which which to flush my toilets but Ski Bowel uses it to line their pockets with yet more money? But I pay exorbitant fees for the un-recycled water I use - while on water restrictions for watering my vegetable garden. Ridiculous…make this water available to the residents of Flagstaff and keep it off the mountain.
Feb 1, 2013 2:15PM
I soiuld have noted that theRecycled  water used by my guess is only about  27% Due to the fact that This Resort in W. Pa does not rely on natural  snow so snow making is a must and uses large Quantities of spring and well waters.
Feb 1, 2013 1:46PM

Wow what a scam? I am glad that I do not ski anymore, as I would not wat to slide and swoosh down a mtn. on someoe's regenerated ****!


And yes, I agree such use is in complete disrespect and disregard for our Native Americans and sacred lands.


Isn't it interesting that our country give more breaks to illegal immigrants then we do to NATIVE AMERICANS.


We have become a shameful and wasteful country and our Gov't denying such only cause us more harm!

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