Climate Adaptation and Impacts on the US Ski Economy

Authors: Elizabeth Burakowski*, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, Marca Hagenstad, MS Hagenstad Consulting, Gabrielle Makatura, University of Colorado, Boulder, Co, Rebecca Hill, Colorado State University, Ryan Barney, Independent Researcher
Topics: Recreational and Sport Geography, Climatology and Meteorology, Cryosphere
Keywords: skiing, climate, winter, snow, mountains, recreation, adaptation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The United States ski industry has become increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change including decreased snowpacks, warmer temperatures, and more winter precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. Climate model projections suggest that winter climate trends will continue to follow a pattern of warmer, less snowy winters, challenging winter resort communities to adapt their operational strategies. We present case studies from six popular winter destinations across the United States and report their adaptation strategies to recent warm winters. Resorts are diversifying in-season and offseason programming, partnering with neighboring resorts, improving snow management techniques, and educating clients on climate science.

Additionally, the study analyzes how historical (2000-2017) changes in the winter season have impacted the ski tourism industry economy, focusing on skiing statistics and historical winter climate observations. In 2015, the US ski economy provided over 155,000 jobs and billions of dollars in value added to the economy. The study also examined the impact of climate change on consumer surplus (CS), the value skiers have for skiing above what they actually pay. Reductions in ski season length and value of experience due to reduced snowfall could result in a large loss in CS. Since the 1999/2000 ski season, visitation has remained steady at small and large resorts, but decreased at medium-sized sized resorts and increased at the largest resorts. We hypothesize that economic activity at the largest resorts will drive the future of the US ski economy.

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