Ski Industry Panic: Protect Our Winters

An industry that is often swept under the rug in the effects of climate change debate is the skiing industry.
Many argue that combatting climate change will damage the energy industry because of regulations subsequently causing the loss of jobs. However, not combatting climate change will have a great effect on the skiing industry as well.
“People don’t realize how much money is coming to the Rocky Mountain region because of skiing,” said David Stevenson, the rental shop manager at Red River Ski area in New Mexico. “But if there’s no snow, then there is no skiing! And that’s all some communities have, my own included.”

Snowy Range Ski Area, located 30 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming, has experienced several years of drought but had a good season in terms of snowfall.

Climate Change’s Effect on Snow
There is a good deal of research on how climate change is affecting our planet, and the most obvious effect on the skiing industry is the decreasing snowfall throughout the years.
According to a study done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and published in 2016, snow fall has been decreasing since the 1930s across the United States.
The study was done by placing 419 weather stations throughout the continental United States and tracking the amount of snowfall from 1930 to 2007. What the EPA found was a substantial decrease in snowfall among 57 percent of the stations.
“I certainly don’t have the data they (EPA) do, but I can tell you from living here (Red River Ski Area) for over 25 years that we have definitely seen a decrease in snowfall,” Stevenson said. “It hasn’t necessarily been a consistent decline, for instance this year has had really pretty good snow, whereas last year we only had one good storm all season.”
As climate change progresses these droughts begin to become more and more severe, leaving many in the skiing industry concerned for the future.

Courtesy of epa.gov

Economic Effect
According to vailresorts.com, Vail Resorts had a net income of $210.6 million in 2017. That accounts for several areas in Colorado, but only a small portion of the profits derived from visitors coming to ski in the Rocky Mountains.
“I feel very strongly about the climate change debate because skiing is kind of my livelihood and we rely on people coming to ski to keep living here” Stevenson said. “The bottom line is that we are seeing drastic changes in snowfall every year and it creates a sense of uncertainty every season. Will there be enough snow? Will we have enough customers to make any money? It’s all a part of it.”
While it is tough to draw a direct correlation between ticket sales at ski resorts and snowfall annually, people in the industry believe there is a strong correlation.
“Obviously the people who love skiing are still going, but there are a lot of people who only want to ski if the snow is good and they are the ones who keep money flowing through these ski towns,” Ellie Stevenson, Dave’s, said. “There are people who regularly come to Red River from Texas, they’re our biggest clientele, but not as many come during the winter if we don’t have very much snow.”
It is truly just common sense that less snow each year is going to result in people wanting to ski less, regardless of if they are a die-hard skier or just like to take a yearly trip to a resort with their family.

Snow falls as ice melts at Snowy Range Ski Area on March 6, 2019.

Skiers Fight Back
Outdoor enthusiasts, and skiers especially, are not the type of people to sit back and let climate change ruin their lifestyle. Many pro skiers are outspoken advocates for cleaner energy and promote a “green” lifestyle.
But some have taken even a step further and started and organization known as POW, or Protect Our Winters. According to their website, POW was started by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones with the goal of raising awareness and advocating for systemic political solutions to climate change.
“I think what POW is doing is really important and something I wish we’d see more of,” skier and student at the University of Wyoming Jeremiah Varca said. “The fact that it’s a grassroots movement done by influential people in the ski industry is very important for keeping a real and powerful movement.”
POW began as primarily athletes and ski companies but has spread out to outdoor activists from all walks of adventure who are not going to lose their hobby because of corporate greed and politics that do not do anything to combat the pressing that is climate change. POW has even expanded its views from Just the idea of protecting our winters to combatting climate change as a whole.

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