When the average individual thinks of climate change or global warming, they think simply of rising temperatures. This rise of temperatures, however, due to a rise of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, leads to other climactic events like a rise of temperatures and evaporation within oceans, and more profound El Nino effects. A combination of many of these can wreak havoc upon industries.
One particular industry that has been negatively affected is the Winter Sports Tourism industry, mostly dominated by skiing and snowboarding. The Killington Ski resort is one example of a company facing the consequences. It was reported in 2012 that only 34 of its 155 ski trails were open, and that figure later decreased to 24 of its 155 (1). Furthermore, increased dryness destroyed a base lodge at the resort in 2013.
Much of the damage caused at Killington through global warming has been ice cap melting yielding dangerously low snow level for skiiers and snowboarders, but also el nino effects which lead to unpredictability and therefore trouble with marketing and staffing during winter peak seasons. This past year, Killington expected actually a lower amount of snow activity but ended up opening more paths yet were not staffed appropriately. At the same time, resorts on the west coast also experienced a massive increase of snow activity which led to increased traffic to places like Tahoe and Vail, but lack of resources to support some of this traffic (2). Alpine ski resorts in general experienced the ‘worst ski Christmas in decades.’ A study from 2008 from the University of Maryland ballparked that Colorado (largest ski-based economy in the US) would lose $375 million in revenue and 4,500 jobs by 2017 due to skier attrition from lack of snow. (3)
Measures that Killington ski resort has taken has been internal measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions internally and supporting projects in Vermont to reduce emissions across the state, hoping that a country-wide support effort will follow and future effects will be mitigated. It is difficult to see the effects of this short term and rally community support around such a broad idea, but the inspiration largely comes from the Mountain Pact being done by large resorts like Vail and Park City who have worked with the Obama administration to block expanded coal leasing on Department of Interior land in order to keep emissions in check, and this project has been successful (4).
In order to mitigate more short term effects, resorts are utilizing other measures to continue to attract winter sports enthusiasts to their resorts. They are increasing the amount of available options for those who are unable to ski or snowboard by offering other amenities at their resorts and beginning to overinvest into ‘fake snow’ to open more trails at all times. This however has significantly decreased margins and revenue for the ski resort as the costs of this production and the lower satisfaction has made utilization of their slopes very slow.
In my mind, I believe Killington needs to focus on building revenue in the slopes and trails that it cannot sustain with current global warming trends. The fact of the matter is that there will still be trails open and available for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, but the resort must find ways to utilize the otherwise empty inventory in innovative ways. Increasing traffic via corporate or group retreats, finding ways to utilize these trails for offseason hiking, or finding better and higher quality ways to create fake snow to allow winter activities on these slows are some small ideas to do this.