Thursday, March 9, 2006
Climate change and the economics of ski areas: Examples from Idaho
For ski areas at moderate elevation, the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) has found that even modest increases in the Pacific Northwest temperature and precipitation as a result of climate change could significantly decrease revenues by shortening the length of the ski season. Warmer winter temperatures projected under climate change imply later opening and earlier closing dates for ski areas. Shorter ski seasons can have a significant impact on the economic viability of ski resorts.
Increasingly ski areas are turning to artificial snow-making in an effort to increase skier days and hence profitability. Depending on the location of the ski area, artificial snow-making may not be economically viable. Snow-making requires large amounts of water; it takes 139,322 gallons of water to make an acre-foot of snow. A ‘typical' ski run of 200 feet wide with a drop of 1,500 feet would take three acre feet of water (55 tanker truck loads) to make one foot of snow. If the resort has affordable water available then snowmaking can be economically be used to extend the season. For those ski areas that don't have sufficient water availability, the future will mean coping with shorter ski seasons.
Don Reading is a consulting economist with the Climate Impacts Group. Don is based in Boise, Idaho.