The Snow Down on Climate Change

As a native to Salt Lake City, Utah, I have been exposed to quite a bit of snow in my life.  From a young age, I have known to equate winter with snow, and snow means ski season has begun.

The skiing industry is a huge part of many states in the U.S, as well as many countries in the entire world.  In the 2012-2013 ski season, it was estimated that 8.2 million Americans skied (even just once), 7.4 million snowboarded, and 3.3. million cross-country skied.  This comes to a grand total of around 57 million “skier-visits.”

In the 2009-2010 ski season, winter trips created around 212,000 jobs, $7 billion, and an economic value of $12.2 billion in the U.S.  The ski industry is a large money-making industry, but the problem is you need snow in order to make the money and there seems to be less and less snow every year.  Consequently, climate change is a leading cause in the economic loses of the ski industry.

This year, Alta Ski Resort (in Utah) opened November 21st.  However, this year was different than most.  In Alta, Utah, snow typically consistently falls throughout November.  This year, there was not nearly as much snow in November as usual, so in order to open at a reasonable time, the resort used snowmakers to make the ski runs “skiable” by the 21st.  In 2011, it was estimated that snowmaking could take up to anywhere between 10-20 percent of a ski resorts expenses.

Ski resorts in Utah are not the only resorts suffering from loses due to climate change.  In August of this year, Craigieburn Valley Ski Area in New Zealand was three months into its winter season and they hadn’t opened at all at that point.  The operators in this area are receiving the effects of climate change by facing the warmest winter in the Southern Hemisphere since 1909.  This small area in New Zealand is like many other small ski areas in the country where they rely completely on natural snow.  Operators in this area have said that “they can’t afford to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in snow-making equipment.”

Snowmakers02_e_0203

A snow maker putting snow on a slope in the French Alps.

This past season in California was one of the driest years they have ever had, which caused large resorts to only open partially and smaller ones to not open at all.  It is estimated that “by 2039 only half of the 103 ski areas in the U.S. Northeast would be able to maintain a 100-day season.”

The increasing temperatures and altering of precipitation in the Southern Hemisphere will force the ski season in Australia to be shortened from around 94-155 days to 81-114 days by 2040.  Furthermore, it is estimated that by 2090, the ski industry will be completely gone.

But how can ski resorts make money even though their snowfall is so much less than what it used to be?

Vail Resorts owns many resorts around the Northwest (Colorado and Lake Tahoe).  In 2012, the snowfall was down by 80% of what it usually is.  The CEO of Vail Resorts announced that in order to make a business during the climate changes, you must “make your business about much more than snowfall.  The chart below shows the breakdown of how Vail Resorts makes its money.

Screen Shot 2012-02-07 at 12.12.47 AM

In conclusion, as a planet, we must continue to fight climate change in order to keep skiing a possibility.  Do you want to see a world that doesn’t have skiing?  I can say for sure that I sure don’t.

Work Cited:

Associated Press. “Some New Zealand Ski Resorts Are Losing Money Due to Lack of Snow.” Mashable. N.p., 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

Kittle, Cameron. “Ski Areas Invest in Snowmaking to Survive.” Nashua Telegraph. N.p., 2 Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

The Daily Climate. “Snowmakers Are Saving Ski Resorts … for Now.” MNN. N.p., 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

Thompson, Derek. “No Business Like Snow Business: The Economics of Big Ski Resorts.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 07 Feb. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

Tobin, Mitch. “Snow Jobs: America’s $12 Billion Winter Sports Economy and Climate Change.” EcoWest RSS. N.p., 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

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