Sewage may not be the first thing on most skiers’ minds as they carve down the pistes, but as California enters its fourth year of drought, ski resort authorities there have been forced to adopt seemingly drastic measures to preserve the quality of the slopes.

In a recent move to preserve water in the drought-stricken state, treated and sanitised waste-water has been run through the snow-cannons in place of fresh water, with mixed feelings on the matter coming from all corners.

Skiing is seen as a luxury, and ski resorts across California are under pretty intense pressure these days to reduce their carbon footprint – and rightly so. Snow levels are fluctuating, glaciers are melting and many people feel ski resorts worldwide face a bleak future unless steps are taken. Take California’s Lake Tahoe, for instance, which this season saw bare slopes through lack of snowfall and a ban on snowmaking in efforts to preserve water.

When you consider these factors, you have to admit that treating waste water and running it through the snow cannons instead of fresh water is a pretty sleek idea! It’s environmentally friendly, and the net result to skiers on the slopes is more snow at less environmental cost. What’s not to like?!

Slightly more old-fashioned yellow snow-making facilities. Image courtesy of Vladimir Turner on Flickr

Today, there are around 6 or so US resorts using treated waste water to produce artificial snow, including Snowbowl and Bear Creek. Elsewhere, a handful of resorts in Australia have switched to the controversial technique and there are surely more to follow. European resorts, it seems, are less keen... for now...

Whether we like it or not, as water shortages and drought threaten our enjoyment of the slopes across the globe, we have to think outside the box to reduce our impact on the environment. If that means running treated waste water though our snow cannons to keep the lower slopes nicely covered, let’s get on with it!

Just don’t eat the snow.