Science | January 11, 2022 6:00 am

Winter Sports Are the Latest Victim of Climate Change

An existential threat on several levels

You can't ski down a mountain if there's no snow on it.
Jerry Zhang/Unsplash

Since the start of the current pandemic two years ago, a lot has been written about its effects on winter sports. And that’s understandable. Really, anything that’s going to give people pause about congregating is likely to have an adverse effect on, say, congregating at a ski resort.

But COVID-19 isn’t the only thing threatening winter sports right now, and there’s something else that poses an existential threat to many outdoor activities around the world.

That “something” is, of course, climate change. And ski resorts aren’t the only thing that they pose an existential threat to — but there are certain effects of climate change that can be mitigated. If not enough snow is falling in a particular region — or if no snow is falling at all — businesses depending on the existence of that snow are left in an untenable position.

A 2019 article at The Guardian cited climate change’s effect on small- and medium-sized ski resorts across Europe. It cited a statistic that’s at the heart of this issue: mountains are more affected by climate change than regions closer to sea level. The changing environmental conditions led some resorts to go out of business, and forced others to utilize an abundance of artificial snow.

More recently, Quartz looked into the subject with an eye on its effect in the United States. Essentially, the shorter the ski season is, the harder a time ski resorts will have reaching a point where they’re profitable. And the quality of skiing conditions also plays a part here — if conditions aren’t good, a certain number of prospective skiiers will stay away. That, too, can have a substantial effect on the businesses involved.

The article goes on to note that ski resorts in California, Washington and Massachusetts would be particularly hurt if ski conditions continue to worsen.

How is the industry responding? More consolidation, for one thing; more high-altitude skiing, for another. And an industry waits and watches to see if those measures will suffice.