Economics

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Report: Warmer Winters Costing Winter Sports Industry Over $1 Billion

7 Mar, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The issue of climate change is always hotly (sorry) debated so new research, which lays out the economic effect of warmer winters and skimpier snow on winter tourism destinations, may be of interest to owners of outdoor ice and snow sports event owners. Particularly since it notes that changes in the winter season driven by climate change have cost the downhill ski resort industry approximately $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue over high and low snow years over the last decade.

The recently released report, The Economic Contributions of Winter Sports in a Changing Environment, available at this link, was sponsored by REI and the conservation group, Protect Our Winters (POW).

While given the sponsors, it might be easy to dismiss the report as propaganda, it emerged the same week as this statistic from DestiMetrics Market Briefing: meager snowfall at most western ski resorts during January were seen as the biggest cause of a drop-off in bookings for the remainder of the ski season as lodging properties maintain a tenuous hold on revenues.

The DestiMetrics report also noted, “Bookings made in January for arrivals from January through June are down 15.4 percent, with the biggest decline coming in bookings for January arrivals—plunging 24 percent compared to bookings made last January for arrivals in that month.”

The Economic Contributions report noted some interesting statistics of its own:

  • The winter sports tourism industry generates $12.2 billion
  • 23 million Americans participate in winter sports annually
  • In high snow years, increased skier participation levels in high snow years meant an extra $692.9 million in value added and 11,800 extra jobs compared to the 2001–2016 average.
  • In low snow years, reduced participation decreased value added by over $1 billion and cost 17,400 jobs compared to an average season. (Nationally, each year that showed a decline in skier visits correlated with low snow in states hosting a large proportion of national skier visits)
  • Changes in the winter season driven by climate change have cost the downhill ski resort industry approximately $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue over high and low snow years over the last decade
  • Winter season (December through February) snowfall in the Rockies is projected to decrease by 16 percent by the end of the century under higher emissions scenario
  • More than 75 percent of US ski resorts have launched efforts to improve their sustainability practices and their own emissions while also finding innovative ways to address low-snowfall and adapt their business models

Some resorts have weighed in on how they keep snow on their slopes, despite a lack of high-powered equipment (or in some cases, despite having no equipment). For information on how some resorts shuttle snow around to cover slopes, go to this article.

Additionally, many ski resorts have begun to up their offerings for both winter and the off-season to maximize income. Obstacle racing, mountain biking and more are now promoted heavily, and can help offset the losses caused by poor snow years.

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