Winter Sports

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Climate Change Affecting Snowsports Events, Business

23 Feb, 2020

By: Michael Popke

Some elected officials still may be in denial regarding the effects of climate change, but they need only look at the snowsports industry to witness the impact of warmer temperatures.

“If greenhouse-gas emissions continue at the same level, snow will almost disappear at lower levels by the end of the century,” Marc Olefs, head of the department for climate research at Vienna’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, told Bloomberg.com in an article headlined “Climate Change Is Killing Alpine Skiing as We Know It.” He predicted that even producing artificial snow will become more difficult because of rising temperatures.

From Austria to France to the United States, a lack of snow has delayed the start of ski season in such iconic destinations as Breckenridge, Colo.; Park City, Utah; and Stowe, Vt. In mid-January, Vail Resorts Inc. — which operates 37 destination mountain resorts and regional ski areas — announced a 7.8 percent drop in season-to-date total skier visits over the previous year, attributable at least in part to low snowfall amounts. Affiliated revenues (dining and retail) also were down.

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany — site of the 1936 Winter Olympics —year-round tourism is big business, with summer visitors generating more economic impact than winter these days. That’s a trend local businesses might have to get used to, as the winters become shorter.

“We have to come up with concepts to maintain the winter tourism that we still have,” Garmisch Mayor Sigrid Meierhofer told Bloomberg.com. “You say it’s brown — I say the hiking paths are open.”

Inside The Games also notes, “The seventh leg of the International Ski Federation (FIS) Nordic Combined World Cup in Otepää in Estonia was cancelled due to continuing high temperatures in the country leading to no snowfall. The resort was also scheduled to host two FIS Continental Cup jumps, but they too have been cancelled.”

Last March, citing research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, CNBC.com reported that snowfall amounts in the western United States have declined an average of 41 percent since the early 1980s. As a result, the snow season has shrunk by 34 days.

The weather is wreaking havoc on more than just tourism. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin, home values near ski resorts could drop by at least 15 percent by 2050 due to warmer winters. At lower-elevation ski areas, such as in Utah, Idaho, Nevada and parts of California, they could fall as much as an estimated 55 percent.

In an effort to drive climate policy and the clean energy economy for the $887 billion outdoor business sector, Snowsports Industries America, the Outdoor Industry Association and the National Ski Areas Association last year collectively launched the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership. The OBCP represents thousands of outdoor retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, sales reps and resorts across the country and seeks bipartisan action on climate change.

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