Over the past several years, California has ricocheted from extreme drought to flooding. From record warmth to the highest Sierra snowpack on record, most years it's feast or famine.
With the exception of the month of March, most of Sothern California's mountains have been seen with lots of brown and not much snow, and when there is snow, the region's warm winter temperatures quickly melt it. As global temperatures continue to climb, Snow Valley Mountain resort, like other places, is being forced to adapt.
"Like being a farmer, you get a good crop some years, some years you don't, and that's the way we look at it in the ski business," Snow Valley Vice President Kevin Somes said. "We're always eternal optimist in this business."
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But is this kind of thinking realistic? With temperatures continuing to warm, we expect less snow falling in the future.
"Snow is melting earlier in the year. When precipitation falls we're getting relatively more rain relative to snow, and that that snow line is going up," said Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, Ph.D. "All of these are consistent with what was predicted for California, back in the 1980s."
The data supports this.
NBC4 has tracked historical temperatures, snow and timing for Big Bear and Snow Valley. Since 1960, average temperatures have warmed by .7 degrees per decade. Snow is also falling later in the year and the last day of snowfall is coming sooner; the first and last date of measurable snow has been decreasing by four days a decade.
Snow Valley has taken measures in preparation for a future with less snow. The resort's new six-person chairlift wasn't put in primarily for skiers; it was built with summer in mind.
"It's obviously concerning because snow is our main business here in Snow Valley, but we have to find ways to adapt to it," Somes said. "[We are investing in] new technologies in snowmaking, looking toward activities in the summertime like beginning mountain biking and scenic rides and hiking and activities like that."
Snow Valley and others will likely have to continue with those new strategies.
According to scientific news and research organization Climate Central, California's spring months are warming more than any other season at 1 degree per decade. That means that in the future, should the climate change trends continue, no matter how much snow we get, it will melt faster than in years past, leading to more drought and water resource issues.