Report: Climate Change Threatens Winter Tourism
By Tyler Collins
For those who love to play in the snow, recent snowfalls have been very disappointing. It’s also a significant economic issue. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)and Protect Our Winters (POW)shows links between low snowfalls in the past decade and reduced economic activity in America.
For the 2011-2012 ski season, Vail Resorts saw skier visits fall 12.1% at its six ski areas, largely due to poor snowfall. According to the National Ski Areas Association’s End of Season Survey, 50 % of responding ski areas opened late and 48% closed early, with every region experiencing a decrease in overall days of operation during the 2011-2012 ski season.
The report, authored by University of New Hampshire researchers Elizabeth Burakowski and Matthew Magnusson, shows that over the past decade a bad snow year can cost as much as $1.9 billion in reduced economic activity in the U.S., and job losses of up to 13,000, or 6% of industry employment. As global temperatures continue to rise, this impact is expected to grow.
In order to compensate for lack of natural snow, ski resorts are increasingly making snow. This keeps resorts open, but snowmaking is very energy intensive and places massive demands for water on local water supplies.
"The bitter irony is that the response to climate change is to use a lot of energy and further cannibalize the climate. Surely there is a better approach than that,” said Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability for Aspen Ski Company, about snowmaking practices.
"We need to protect the laws we have, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Clean Air Act to set carbon pollution standards for major polluting industries," the report concludes. "And we need to put in place policies and standards for the longer term that will ensure that vibrant, prosperous winters endure for generations to come."
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Posted: December 19, 2012