While snowmaking has been standard at Eastern resorts for more than 20 years, it's now come to western destinations as well. Heavenly Valley, Calif., for example, has 200 snow guns that can cover 73 percent of the mountain, while Oregon and Washington resorts are adding new efficient snowguns and even "harvesting" snow from resort parking lots to make it through warm winters.
In addition, Heavenly, along with Diamond Peak, Nev., Timberline, Ore., and Jiminy Peak, Mass., are installing a new software system to make snowmaking a high-precision operation. Called Snowsat, the program combines digital mapping, satellite-based GPS navigation and wireless connections to a main station to tell snowcat drivers how much snow is under their treads, blades and rollers. It uses aerial imagery captured during the summer to estimate winter snow depth to within two inches.
RELATED: Iditarod Has to Import Snow in Warming Alaska
Ski resorts are big energy hogs, sucking up tons of water, electricity and diesel-powered engines to make snow and run lifts. Given the visible effects of climate change, many say they are trying to reduce their carbon footprint with renewable energy. More than 30 resorts have joined an industry initiative to document their greenhouse gas emissions reductions with cleaner-burning snowguns, LED lighting and even carpools for guests and employees.