Lack of snow leaves winter businesses feeling cold

Kai Ryssdal Jan 9, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: This will make me no friends in colder parts of the country, but I gotta tell you, the weather here in Southern California’s getting old. Warm, sunny, highs in the 80s, no rain, and most definitely not a lot of snow up in the mountains.

It’s the same elsewhere. The Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says snow coverage — that is, snow on the ground this year — is among the worst on record. Bad for ski areas, sporting goods sales, condos and also athletes whose livelihoods depend on the stuff.

Professional snowboarders, for just one example. We got pro snowboarder Travis Rice on his cell phone. Travis, good to talk to you.

Travis Rice: Pleasure.

Ryssdal: Hey, tell us where we tracked you down and more importantly how the snow is, man.

Rice: Well I’m currently on slope up at Deer Bridge in [British] Columbia and actually, I hate to admit it, but it’s about a meter of fresh snow here. We’re just doing some last-minute adjustments and doing a contest up here called Red Bull Supernatural in about a few weeks, getting some final stuff together for it.

Ryssdal: So you’ve gone way, way north to get snow. But judging by the news today, there’s not a whole lot of snow in the rest of this country down here.

Rice: I know. I know. I’ve been down the U.S. cruising down a bit, looking for it actually — prior to Christmas/New Year’s. Yeah, seems a bit dry to start this year.

Ryssdal: So talk to me for a minute about that. You’re a guy who makes his living on powdery white stuff. What does this do to you?

Rice: Well we’re coming on the heels of, I think we had the most snowfall ever recorded where I lived out in Jackson Hole last year. I remember reading a Farmer’s Almanac article I think in October that basically stated the majority of this year’s mainland precipitation was coming in mid-January and beyond. So I think winter’s still going to come with full force. I think…

Ryssdal: Sounds kind of like you’re hoping here?

Rice: Oh, I’m optimistic.

Ryssdal: Yeah. What does it do to you though, in terms of practice time and travel costs? It has to make everything more expensive.

Rice: It does, man. It’s definitely tough. It’s tough for the whole industry. I think sales, obviously, are completely down. The biggest-selling season being prior to Christmas/New Year’s. So that definitely hurts. You know, Europe’s been hit really hard the last two years and they’re finally getting snow. So it’s kind of ebb and flow.

Ryssdal: When you go to events and they have to make snow, is that like kissing your sister, kinda?

Rice: I mean, it’s not optimal. But they do a good job, with contests, able to make snow. Unfortunately I just heard yesterday the North Face Masters in Snowbird was canceled due to no snow. I think there’s going to be a few more contests indeed that are trying to deal with natural snow. Granted, X Games, Dew Tour, some of the pipe events, they’ve been able to still go because they’re able to make snow.

Ryssdal: When events get canceled, you lose potential prize money, yes?

Rice: Absolutely. The riders that plan their season around going to events like that, it definitely hurts. I think it’s one of those things where they have a bad year this year, it’s really the budgets next year and the year after that kind of suffer from that.

Ryssdal: Right. Well Travis, thanks for taking the time. Travis Rice on the mountains someplace in British Columbia.

Rice: Hey, thanks a lot.

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