Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States
The winter sports industry/community is deeply dependent upon predictable, heavy snowfall, but climate change is expected to contribute to warmer winters, reduced snowfall, and shorter snow seasons. The estimated $12.2 billion U.S. ski and snowmobile winter sports industry has already felt the direct impact of decreased winter snowpack and rising average winter temperatures.
The goal of this new study, commissioned by Protect Our Winters (POW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is to help policy makers understand both the ski and snowmobile industry's current economic scale and the potential economic impacts that climate change may cause.
The study details include how historical changes in the winter season have already impacted the winter tourism industry with a focus on the most recent decade's skiing statistics and a review of historical winter climate observations. It also considers what is at risk from the impact of future winter climate projections.
We know that across the United States, winter temperatures have already warmed 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1895 and the rate of warming has more than tripled to 0.55 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1970. The strongest winter warming trends have occurred in the northern half of the United States, where snow plays an important role in their winter season.
Without intervention, winter temperatures are projected to warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snow cover area, snowfall, and shorter snow season. Snow depths could decline in the west by 25 to 100 percent. The length of the snow season in the northeast will be cut in half.
All of this translates into less snow and fewer people on the slopes, which results in massive economic hardship for resorts, states, local communities, businesses and their employees. In an American winter landscape where more than three-quarters of states benefit economically from winter sports and where our study finds that nationwide there are 211,900 jobs either directly or indirectly supported by the ski and snowmobile industry, changing snowfall patterns will have a significant economic effect.
In order to protect winter and the hundreds and thousands of livelihoods who depend on a snow-filled season, we must act now to support policies that protect our climate, and in turn, our slopes.