Squaw Valley, nestled in the Sierra Nevada just northeast of Lake Tahoe, California, has been an icon of the region for nearly 70 years. With over 6,000 acres of skiable terrain  and host of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, it has become a go-to ski resort for both California natives and travelers from around the globe. In recent years, however, the threat of warmer weather and the associated lack of snowfall has seriously threatened its long-term viability as a winter sport destination.
Wait, what’s the problem?
Warmer winters mean less snow. Less snow means fewer skiers. And because Squaw Valley has always operated under the assumption that skiers will pay money to access the resort, they may be in for a rude awakening in the balmy years to come. This is especially true because its competitor-neighbors in Colorado – Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen, Beaver Creek – can easily attract would-be Squaw Valley customers in the absence of Tahoe snow, as they exist at significantly higher elevations (read: it’s colder up there).
But perhaps Squaw Valley can assuage this effect by adapting their operations and their overall model.
Is making snow the answer?
To help maintain their winter appeal, Squaw Valley has recently invested a lofty $8 million in snowmaking equipment. In 2015 alone, 17 snowmaking machines were acquired to help compensate for the lower levels of natural snowfall , and 50% of the runs currently utilize the artificial snow . Now this is a start, but if temperatures are expected to continue rising (they are ), Squaw Valley needs to either aggressively ramp up this style of snowmaking or find a more creative and sustainable solution to keep revenues flowing.
What else can Squaw do?
Outside of winter activities, the resort has increasingly been promoting spring, summer, and fall outdoor activities such as mountain biking, rock-climbing, scenic tram rides, and even concert series . While increasing the customer base for these activities will help bring in more revenue, it fails to address the unapologetic fate of their winter business. In order for the resort to survive the impact of continuously warmer winter seasons, Squaw Valley will need to either heavily invest in new technologies that provide snow for those who crave it, or create weather-independent activities that will make up for the slow, short, warm winters of the future.
A competitor of Squaw Valley’s has taken this exact approach. Whistler Blackcomb, a premier destination in Canada for snow sport enthusiasts, announced in April 2016 their $345 million plan to enhance the four-season attractions at their resort. A significant portion of this budget will be allocated to building an indoor water park and a mountain coaster, both of which can be used year-round .
While this approach may help generate additional revenue streams and offset the loss associated with fewer snow-based activities, it’s hardly satisfying to think that ski resorts are “adapting” by becoming theme parks. In fact, it’s depressing.
The optimist in me hopes that resorts like Squaw Valley will find a way to permanently ensure that enough snow will always be plentiful. This would require some serious innovation in the world of snow-making technology. The realist in me, however, is in line with my gut. And my gut tells me that ski resorts like Squaw Valley will disappear as we know them within 50 years. Yes, ski resorts will still exist at higher altitudes and latitudes, but they too will steadily decrease in number and size as temperatures increase and winters shrink. I’ll have to show my grandchildren pictures of what Squaw used to be.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s not too late. And I hope we can start treating our planet like a home instead of a junkyard. I don’t know what the next step toward recovery looks like, but I’m hopeful it exists and I’m anxious to get on board. Until then, you can find me skiing while I still can.
 Figure includes Alpine Meadows, the newly-connected resort purchased in 2011 by KSL Capitol Partners LLC, parent company of Squaw Valley.
 University of California Davis, “Scientists: Lake Tahoe Experienced a Record-Breaking Year in 2015,” https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/scientists-lake-tahoe-experienced-record-breaking-year-2015-0/, accessed November 2016.
 Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, “Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows Invests over $9 million in Capital Improvements for 2015-16 Ski and Ride Season,” http://squawalpine.com/explore/blog/squaw-valley-alpine-meadows-invests-over-9-million-capital-improvements-2015-16-ski-and, accessed November 2016.
 Figure includes Alpine Meadows runs.
 US Environmental Protection Agency, “Future of Climate Change,” https://www.epa.gov/climate-change-science/future-climate-change#ref, accessed November 2016.
 Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, http://squawalpine.com/, accessed November 2016.
 “Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. Announces Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance Long-Term Strategic Plan,” press release, April 5, 2016, on Whistler Blackcomb website, https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/about-us/media/apr-5-2016, accessed November 2016.
 Amy Graff, “Melting away: Spring skiing photos from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows,” SF Gate, March 24, 2015, http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2015/03/24/melting-away-spring-skiing-photos-from-squaw-valley-and-alpine-meadows/#photo-611406, accessed November 2016.
 Family Fun Canada, “Pipe Mountain Coaster Alpine Roller Coaster Opening Soon!” http://www.familyfuncanada.com/pipe-mountain-coaster/, accessed November 2016.