Here's how ski resorts in NC make sure they have snow, even when there is none

While the snow can cause a lot of problem in our area, the lack of snow can be a problem in the mountains where ski resorts depend on it for a successful season. When there is no snow, the resorts then depend on manufactured snow.

Gunther Jochl is a snow magician. It's his team's job to keep Sugar Mountain Ski Resort covered in powder. Gunther says it's really not that hard.

"It's really very easy. No chemicals. There's nothing weird about it. It takes water and it takes air. The air blows the water into a fine mist that mixes with the air, freezes and falls to the ground as snow.

Gunther gave me a firsthand look at how the process works.

First, he powers up the machine and the air compressor starts blowing compressed air. Next, we get the water flowing from a spigot on the side of the mountain. As it was blown into the cold air of the upper elevations, snow begins to fall. He then checks for flakes on the side of his jacket. No chemicals are added. Just water and cold air.

But the process is extremely expensive. Just one snowmaking machine can cost over $30,000 and there are dozens on Sugar Mountain. Throw in the water and electricity, and it really adds up.

Gunther says snowmaking costs his resort $1.2 million per season.

But that cost is what keeps people coming back to ski. Being around snow all the time, I wondered if there's ever too much snow.

"No. I used too when I was a kid," he said. "Where I grew up in Austria we had snow five or six months a year and I got sick of it, but here I don't."

Neither do the skiers or the snowboarders. From a shadowy base to a sunny summit, folks here on the slopes really don't mind the man-made stuff, as long as there's plenty of it.
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