Although the first destination that comes to mind when you think “Spring Break” probably wouldn’t be Colorado or Utah, many students journey to the mountains to spend their week off. But with the threat of global warming, skiing on Spring Break may be something of the past. Whether or not you believe in CO2’s role on global warming, the ski resorts do.
Although some resorts may be receiving record snowfall in recent years, it is important to note that snowfall is intermittent every season. On average, snowfall as a whole has been decreasing over the last few decades. Looking at the snowfall at the Saint Pierre de Chartreuse Ski Resort in the Northern Alps, there is a notable decline in snowfall over the years. Although there were the extraordinary seasons that sporadically occurred, the average snowfall dropped after 1987.
Across the English Channel in the United Kingdom, snow days are down a third over the past four decades. Alex Hill, chief government advisor with the Met Office, has actually predicted that skiing in Scotland would disappear in 50 years.
Even in the United States, a University of Colorado analysis predicts that resorts in Utah would be hurt by the effects of global warming. Researcher Mark Williams warns that by 2100 the active operation of ski resorts could extend from only Christmas to Presidents’ Day. Williams goes on to warn the resorts that "one thing to keep in mind is, when we emit CO2, it stays in the atmosphere for 50 years. Regardless of what we do today, there's a 50-year lag time. If there's one message I want you guys to take home today, it's that 50-year lag time. That has a huge effect on the ski conditions."
So how are ski resorts dealing with these problems? It’s not like they can just pack up their expensive ski lifts and move to Alaska. They do however use vast amounts of energy, from their snow makers to lighting to the lifts. Because of this, energy efficiency has become a huge concern for the ski resorts, especially in the current economical situation. They have even begun to invest in renewable energies with low CO2 emissions such as wind power. For some skiers and snowboarders, the first thing they might notice while waiting in line for lift tickets are signs saying “Lifts powered by wind power”. Many ski resorts are also beginning to consider building their own wind turbine after the Jiminy Peak Ski Resort erected the first wind turbine on a ski resort in North America. Not only is Jiminy Peak saving their future, but according to CEO Brian Fairbank they’re 12 percent ahead of their best year ever…and this is in an economy that’s in a recession. Following in the footsteps of Jiminy, Whistler is also expected to finish their own hydroelectric power plant by the end of November which is projected to produce 33.5 gigawatt hours of electricity a year.
Even if CO2 isn’t the cause of global warming, it’s good to see companies actively invest in alternative forms of energy. Ski resorts obviously don’t use much energy in the summer time and ultimately provide a source of power for nearby towns. Even those that don’t ski can benefit from their investments.