Climate Change Could Mean Big Changes to the Ski Industry

Learn how you can join the winter sports community in the fight against climate change.

Posted: April 4th, 2014 by 


It’s no secret that climate change will have a huge impact on our future; 2013 was the sixth warmest year in recorded human history, our polar ice caps are melting, and million-year-old glaciers are quickly disappearing. Warmer temperatures mean less snow for skiing, and the multi-billion dollar ski and snowboard industry may be one of the hardest hit commercial enterprises by the effects of climate change, resulting in a domino effect of economic turmoil.

This season was spared the dramatic pushbacks of opening dates and lack of snow we’ve seen in recent years, but the future looks pretty bleak for resorts across Colorado and the country. When ski areas push back their opening dates, they lose money. It’s a simple equation: later opening date = less money.

So what will climate change look like in Colorado? Climatologists believe that average temperatures will rise seven degrees Fahrenheit within the next 100 years. Seven degrees may not seem like a lot, but it is enough to reduce the skiable snow at most Colorado resorts to the top 25% of the mountains.

Lack of snow resulted in a billion dollar loss to the industry between 2000 and 2010. That number is nothing compared to the multi-billion dollar projected losses if the climate continues to change at the rate it is currently. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the winter sports are a 66 billion dollar yearly industry, and support 960,000 jobs nationally. The effects of climate change on the ski industry would be felt across the country.

The solution to this problem seems fairly obvious: manufacturing artificial snow, something that most Colorado ski areas and resorts already do. Firstly, snowmakers need ideal conditions to manufacture snow, just like the real weather. It would be almost impossible for snowmakers to make up for all of the lost snow due to climate change. Also, artificially making snow is not ecologically friendly; in several resorts the creeks that supply the water to make snow are drying up. With temperatures as well as the population in the West rising, there will be little water to spare for recreational uses.

Despite a ton of evidence showing that global warming is a certain crisis, there are still critics who refuse to believe it is real. Many people chalk up the change in weather to natural cycles of the world, but scientists know that the drastic transformation our climate is experiencing is happening much too quick for that. Even with occasional cold winters or big snowstorms, the planet is still heating up on average. People can continue to not believe, but those who do believe should act as soon as possible to impede climate change.

Luckily, there is good news to be found in this situation. Ski resorts in Colorado are following the suit of some northeastern ski areas and have begun recycling manufactured snow. Ski resorts are also implementing all-season activities to draw crowds when the mountains aren’t good for skiing, potentially making up for money they could be losing.

Feeling guilty now? It’s hard not to let the facts about climate change get you down. If you want to help fight global warming, you could do a crazy ritual to bring back the snow (my middle school tactic was to flush an ice cube down the toilet), or you could check out this website: POW is a foundation started by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones whose mission is to “unite and actively engage the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.” There are several ways to get involved in the fight against climate change and to educate yourself.


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