Add ski resorts to the growing list of businesses and organizations pushing federal lawmakers to do more about climate change. On May 29, Ceres and its partner organization BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) announced over 100 ski areas, including iconic resorts such as Squaw Valley, CA and Park City, UT, have signed the Climate Declaration.
The properties will join companies such as General Motors (GM), Levi’s, Patagonia and Unilever who have signed on to Ceres’ agenda that insists climate change is an opportunity for the U.S. to not only lead, but create economic opportunities.
So what’s in it for skiers and snowboarders?
The economic threat to skiing, of course, is front and center. According to Ceres, U.S. ski resorts employ 160,000 people and generate over $12 billion in annual revenues. And as skiing equipment becomes more advanced, more Americans are visiting ski resorts: annual attendance at ski resorts nationwide has been increasing about 10 percent annually. Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, for example, reached 500,000 visits for the first time even though snowfall was only 60 percent of the average at the resort’s base and 80 percent of normal at mid-mountain. But the industry is a fragile one year to year - as a late 2012 New York Times article outlined, the business outcome between a year of excellent versus poor snowfall can add up to a $1 billion difference.
And Jackson Hole’s experience with climate volatility echoes across the U.S. Declining snowfall year after year is a long-term threat to the industry despite the sport’s enduring popularity. Rising temperatures, however, are not the only threat to ski areas. Massive storms hitting the country’s mountain ranges may provide temporary relief to parched brown slopes, but increased weather fluctuations do not bode well for the ski industry in the long run. Furthermore, simply making artificial snow to make up for the lack of the real thing is not a sustainable solution in parched areas of the country, from California to Colorado.
Meanwhile, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) claims the industry group is doing its part to confront climate change, from launching more green building projects to more investments in vehicle fleets that use alternative energy. More needs to be done, however, as most of these ski areas are in rural areas where economic opportunities are already limited.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area: Wikipedia (Sean Lynch)]