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And it's far from chump change.

It’s no secret that climate change is already starting to have a tangible impact in our daily lives. But when it comes to the ski industry, those effects now have a price tag. A $5 Billion price tag.

Dr. Daniel Scott, Professor at the University of Waterloo and Protect Our Winters Canada Board Member, alongside researchers from the University of Innsbruck, have completed a first of its kind snowsports study. The study looks at U.S. ski seasons over the last 60 years, developing a clear picture of how changes to our climate are altering the industry. The results are significant and affect not only the ski industry, but the broader tourism economy and our mountain communities.

The analysis determined that even with advanced snowmaking the average ski season between 2000-2019 has been shortened by 5-7 days compared to ski seasons in the 1960s and 70s, before human induced climate change gained pace. Fewer skier visits combined with increased snowmaking have cost the U.S. ski industry an average of US$252 million per year. Sounds pretty steep to us. And the future? Well, that is up to all of us. If we continue down our current emissions path, by mid-century the annual economic impact to the U.S. ski industry could exceed a billion dollars a year. But a low emission pathway compatible with the Paris Agreement ensures our ski industry remains recognizable for future generations. POW is dedicated to making that future our reality. 

Press Release

The U.S. ski industry has lost more than US$5 billion over the past two decades thanks to human-caused climate change, according to a new study. The study from University of Waterloo and University of Innsbruck researchers compared ski seasons in winters from the 1960s to 1970s with the last two decades, from 2000 to 2019. The analysis determined the average ski season has been shortened by five to seven days, and lost skier visits combined with increased snowmaking have cost the U.S. ski industry an average of US$252 million per year.

"We are probably past the era of peak ski seasons" said Dr. Daniel Scott, professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, part of Canada's largest Faculty of Environment. "Average ski seasons in all U.S. regional markets are projected to get shorter in the decades ahead under all emission futures. How much shorter depends on the ability of all countries to deliver on their Paris Climate Agreement emission reduction commitments and whether global warming temperatures are held below two degrees Celsius."  The multi-billion-dollar ski industry has long been identified as one of the most at-risk sectors of the tourism system. The study is a critical first step to understanding the financial impact on the U.S. ski industry and the broader economic damages to ski tourism and destination communities.

Looking forward, the researchers calculated the economic impact that would occur under a range of different greenhouse gas emission scenarios. By the 2050s, even with advanced snowmaking technology, the research found ski seasons are projected to shorten by 14 to 33 days in a low-emission future where pollution from greenhouse gases is rapidly reduced and by 27 to 62 days in a high-emission future. The economic impact on the ski industry would rise to as much as US$657 million in the low-emission scenario or as much as quintuple to US$1.4 billion with higher emissions.

These estimates are considered somewhat conservative as they only include lost direct revenue from reduced ski visits and increased operational costs from more snow production. The study does not account for decreases in hotel, retail and other spending from ski-related tourism costs, which can have a much larger impact on the destination economy. It also doesn't factor in capital costs of expanded snowmaking and impacts on real-estate values at highly impacted ski destinations.

"Climate change is an evolving business reality for the ski industry and the tourism sector. The record-breaking temperatures this winter provided a preview of the future," Dr. Scott said. "It tested the limits of snowmaking in many areas and altered millions of skiers ski visits and destination choices."

Similar analyses in other regional markets and further research on the sustainability of snowmaking and skier demand are needed to determine how the competitiveness of ski destinations across North America and around the world will evolve as climate change unfolds.

The study, How climate change is damaging the US ski industry, was recently published in the journal Current Issues in Tourism.

Researcher Contact:
Daniel Scott
[email protected], 519-500-8228
You can find the link to the published article here: How climate change is damaging the US ski industry


This tangible research is an example of how the outdoor community can rally together to fight climate change. Protect Our Winters Canada needs POWer in numbers and that means you (yes you reading this!). We can work together to make real change with enough support behind us. This figure of $5B— although alarming, shows just how large our outdoor community is. And by realising just how many humans are part of this  community—it's clear we can make change.

Join POW Canada today by becoming a member here. It's free and all it takes is an email.

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