By Olivia Colangelo
As carbon emissions reach an all-time high, the future of outdoor winter pastimes is threatened by exponentially rising temperatures. With each winter bringing less snowfall than the last, many ski resorts are struggling to stay afloat as their seasons are cut short.
As temperatures surge, the atmosphere holds more water vapor, which turns to precipitation in the form of rainfall. The snow on mountains, therefore, becomes slush while the slopes turn green, causing ski enthusiasts to shift their destination preferences.
In late December, northeastern resorts such as Killington and Stowe in Vermont saw about 50 inches of snow. However, their seasons typically average closer to 200 inches. According to Fox Weather, the distinguished ski town Burlington experienced temperatures as high as 25 degrees above the average this ski season.
In regions like the Northeast, ski seasons are starting later and ending earlier than before, leading to a reduction in the number of skiers and snowboarders. To fight these challenges, most resorts have come to rely on artificially produced snow. The machinery and equipment involved in this process are both costly and environmentally taxing. According to ESPN, ski areas may spend anywhere from $500,000 to over $3.5 million per season to produce the man-made powder.
Aside from tourists, professional athletes are also afflicted by poor conditions. The lack of snow has not only canceled competitions and races but has also restricted athletes’ ability to train. Nearly 200 furious skiers recently endorsed a letter to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) demanding it takes action regarding climate change.
A significant factor in the demise of skiing is melting glaciers. As the climate warms, glaciers are melting at a rapid pace. Glacial deterioration can lead to flooding, erosion, and increased risk of avalanches and landslides. This not only damages the infrastructure and landscape of ski resorts but also reduces the water supply used to make artificial snow.
As for local communities in ski towns, the conflict has ensued as resorts, homes, and businesses rely on hydropower. Home values near ski resorts are expected to drop by at least 15% due to warmer winters, according to the University of Wisconsin.
To combat these issues, some ski resorts have implemented environmentally sustainable practices, such as decreased energy consumption, the use of renewable energy like hydropower, and the development of alternative revenue streams. However, the ski industry still faces significant challenges as it adapts to the impacts of climate change on a global scale.
A 2018 study observed that the ski season decreased by approximately 34 days between 1982 and 2016. As the ski season continues to melt away, resorts and major industries are forced to acclimate to the changing conditions to remain profitable and sustainable in the long run. The future of skiing and snowboarding remains precarious, but one thing is certain: the fate of the industry lies in the hands of perpetually warming temperatures.