Climate change forces ski resorts to get creative
Utah is known for its dry, powdery snow. The absence of humidity in the air gives skiers and snowboarders what Utah calls “The Greatest Snow on Earth”, but Jordan Smith, director of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State, said climate change is affecting snow quality.
“The future will ultimately be dependent upon what we do to limit our carbon emissions going forward,” Smith said. “If we're not able to do not able to do that in a significant way, it's most likely going to be a future where winter conditions comprise more dense snow.”
Smith is a co-author on a new student study from the Climate Adaptation Science Program at USU. Along with snow quality, the report said climate change is causing shorter ski seasons and less snow. These are problems Andria Huskinson with Alta ski resort is familiar with.
“We're having to push our opening days back because we don't have the snow,” Huskinson said.
Smith said ski resorts have to adapt. One well known strategy is snowmaking.
“We make snow, have snowmaking machines and really we do it early-season,” Huskinson said.
But Smith said drought is making early season snowmaking less feasible, and for small resorts, snowmaking might not be possible at all.
“They don't have that capacity to be efficient,” Smith said. “With that in place, and they haven't, they never have, they most likely never will.”
Smith said ski resorts might need to get a little more creative to stay open.
“This trend is not is not the death nail to the ski industry in Utah,” Smith said. “But it is one that kind of signals the need to rethink about how we provide skiing opportunities throughout the state.”