Colorado News Connection

February 27, 2018Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Study Calculates Climate Change's Economic Impact on Winter Sports

Eric Galatas

DENVER - Winter arrived late in Colorado, and resorts have struggled to make and keep enough snow to attract skiers and snowboarders and the money they bring to the state.

According to a new report, warmer winters associated with a changing climate are here to stay, unless large-scale efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are mounted.

Mario Molina, executive director of the group Protect Our Winters, says there's a limited window of time to act.

"If we continue with business as usual, what this report shows is that the economic impact, especially on the ski industry, will be far more dramatic than what we're experiencing even now," he laments.

During the 2015-16 ski season, winter sports added more than $20 billion to the national economy through spending at resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, grocery stores and gas stations. Researchers found that a year with low amounts of snowfall results in a loss of more than $1 billion in economic activity, and a loss of more than 17,000 jobs.

The Trump administration has prioritized boosting the fossil-fuel industry over tackling climate change, and EPA chief Scott Pruitt recently claimed that humanity has benefited during warming periods.

Molina disagrees and says in addition to thinner snowpacks at resorts, recent natural disasters - including floods unleashed by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and massive wildfires and subsequent mudslides in California - are further examples of the downsides of a warming planet.

Molina says ski resorts are adapting by lowering emissions, introducing ski passes that can be used wherever snow does fall, and by adding spring and summer activities.

"However, the challenge here is that even all of those adaptations will only work if we still have some semblance of a winter season," he says. "And that means sub-freezing temperatures at night that are needed for making and maintaining snow."

Molina points out that people across the political spectrum share a love for winter sports and benefit from the economic activity they generate. He hopes the information in the report will lead policymakers to keep winter sports viable for future generations by enacting what he calls "climate-sensible policies."