In late October, the snow elves—that is to say, employees—of the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG ski area in Switzerland fire up their secret weapon: a 30 ton snow generating goliath known as Snowmaker. For 20 days straight it runs around the clock, churning out 1,900 tons of snow per day. That snow is then ferried up the mountain on vehicles with caterpillar tracks called “snow cats.” But in the recent past, brute technological interventions were far from necessary. “Ten to 20 years ago you could always...

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