While snow may be the farthest thing from your mind during this week's uncomfortable heat, it's a prime focus at a popular cross-country ski area in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom — even in July.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is studying long-term snow storage, in a project nicknamed "snow farming."
"It gets colder and colder the deeper you go," Lucas Schulz said as he dug through a pile of wood chips to reveal a large mound of snow underneath. "The big question now is, can we make it to August?"
This year, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center started experimenting to see how long it could stretch the life of snow it produced in January and February, by banking it under the insulating wood chips.
If the mountain of snow can last until fall, theoretically, the center could use it as a base layer to get the trails open more easily, without relying so much on Mother Nature.
It's an approach Europeans have been using for some time now, Schulz explained.
"If we can reliably keep snow over the summer, it just makes it that much easier for us to open up when we want to," Schulz told NBC 10 Boston.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is working with geologists at the University of Vermont to research this concept. They've set up a series of lasers and reflectors that can actually measure the volume of snow in the pile and gauge how quickly it’s melting.
Some of the snow in storage was "harvested" for a community party held earlier this week, Schulz said.
At that event, skiers were impressed with the quality of the snow, said U.S. Ski Team member Ida Sargent, who trains in Craftsbury during the summer.
"It was only a hundred meters, but just skiing down that a few times over the course of the evening just brought back all of the joy that I have for skiing," Sargent said of the opportunity to ski during the July heat wave.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Center could share that joy with more skiers in future years, if "snow farming" proves successful.