In the United States, skiing is among the most popular winter sports. However, the number of active ski participants has been declining. There are many factors supporting this decline. Some being the Covid-19 pandemic, increased prices, and even shorter ski seasons due to global warming.
This gradual increase in earth’s temperatures is generally due to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants. While being observed over the past two centuries, global warming still remains quite controversial. Although, scientists have documented data which does prove that earth’s temperatures continue to rise. These warmer temperatures have not only led to the lack of snow in mountain areas but has also proven an increase in the melting of glaciers which has led to increased sea levels.
According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Climate and based on data from the federally funded North American Reginal Climate Change Assessment Program, “by midcentury, the U.S. could see 90 fewer days below freezing each year.” “Nearly all ski areas in the U.S. are projected to have at least a 50% shorter season by 2050,” according to a 2017 study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and published in the Global Environmental Change journal. With a shorter ski season, resorts will have to delay openings and find other ways to prevent their yearly revenue from plummeting.
“Most people ski during holiday breaks such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. The warmer weather is delaying ski resort openings which is decreasing the amount of skiers every year from what I have seen,” said Lauren Zulick ’25.
Rising temperatures and low snow years between 1999 and 2010 have cost ski areas over $1 billion in revenue, according to a 2012 analysis commissioned by the nonprofits Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council. And, according to studies at Colorado State University and University of New Hampshire, snow sports tourism, including skiing and snowboarding, contributes 20 billion dollars to the U.S. economy each year.
Arapaho Basin, a hill just down the road from Keystone in Colorado has felt the effects of climate change. Their East Wall with a summit elevation of 13,050 feet is one of the highest in-bounds skiable terrain in North America. Because of their high elevation and north-to-northeast face there is a very short window for skiers and snowboarders. Unfortunately, due to the warming temperatures, the wall opens later in the season every year. “It’s sad whenever I visit and see that the wall is never open. My dad and I always talk about it, but there is never a right opportunity to ski it because there is no snow,” Olivia Gray said who is a frequent visitor to A-Basin.
Even though ski resorts are open, under half of skiable terrain is available due to poor snowmaking conditions and mild temperatures. “I noticed while I was skiing that the runs did not have as much snow as they have in the past. Many runs were closed because the snow makers were in use because of the lack of snow,” Rankin Holman ’24 said.
Global warming has counteracted ski season, but with all the high-tech technology and advancement in the U.S. today, scientist and engineers have found that natural snow is not the only way to keep ski resorts open. Now, most ski areas have snow guns producing snow 24/7 onto the slopes. Snow-making technologies could eliminate skiers’ burden of rising temperatures. Ski areas are also reducing their carbon footprint by switching to cleaner energy sources due to climate change.