Tuesday, February 21, 2017


As a non-skier, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s happening at the ski resorts. But they do talk about it on the weather news, and the sense I’m getting is that this is a pretty good year, snow-wise, for New England. We’re not getting whited-out like we did in 2015, but it’s not the snow-drought we experienced last year, either, when, if not for snowmaking machines, folks would have been skiing on rock face.

Overall, however, as the world gets warmer, snowfall has become less predictable and skiing seasons in most of the places where people want to ski have grown shorter.

Since the 1970s the duration of the snow season, averaged over the northern hemisphere, has declined by five days a decade, according to the European Environment Agency. Huge regional variation exists, however, both in Europe and elsewhere. Californian slopes that were unable to open in recent years because of snow shortages had to close at the start of 2017 because too much of the stuff had fallen. (Source: The Economist)

What is bad luck for some (in this case, Mother Earth, and the ski resorts that now have to pay for what they used to get for free) presents an opportunity for others, namely, those who produce snowmaking equipment. 

The Economist article – those Euro-centrics! – only cites European companies, one of which (TechnoAlpin) claims to have roughly 50% of global market share. Not that I know anything about the snowmaking industry, but whenever I hear 50% market share, one of my eyebrows goes up. But whatever.

I’m going to do my bit to boost American greatness by giving a shout out to our native snowmakers. So let’s give it up for:

Victor, New York’s own Ratnik, makers of the Sky Giant Snow Gun, and the Mid-Energy Triple Baby Snow Giant High Capacity Tower. How much fun must it be to get to name your product a Triple Baby Snow Giant. (On the other hand, for some folks, the idea of a Triple Baby Snow Giant might be nightmare-inducing.)

Ratnik has its Babies, but Snowmakers (Snow Machines, Inc.) has Kids. You can get a Super Polecat, a Silent Polecat, or a Kid Polecat. A Viking or a Kid Viking. A Super Wizzard or a Kid Wizzard. (And you thought the only company in Midland, Michigan, was Dow Chemical.)

HKD used to be USA! USA! Then it went and merged with a Canadian outfit. But their US presence is in Natick, Mass. So they get a nod here, even if they don’t have Babies or Kids, just devils (Diablos) or angels (Halos).

I’m glad that these companies are making stuff, and that they’re making stuff in America. (At least I think they are.) I like that they make cannons and guns that have nothing to do with killing people, but are making skiers and snowboarders happy.

But with the upside of more demand for snowmaking equipment due to warmer temps, there’s a big downside: snow turns to slush, and then outright water, when the temps get above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. I am well familiar with this, as the snow on the roof of the building next store is seeping through my ceiling whenever we have a melty-day.

Anyway, because of this – warming temps, not the leak in the flashing next door - snowmaking companies plow a fair amount of money into R&D. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Too many snowboarders and skiers out there who’ll be piste off if they don’t.

No comments: