Sunday, December 9, 2012

Let it snow?

Protect Our Winters and the National Resources Defense Council recently released a study detailing the negative economic impacts of reduced snowfall due to climate change.  A copy of the report can be downloaded here.  To vastly summarize the report, a few key findings are:

-winter temperatures are expected to rise 4-10 degrees F by the end of the century if no changes are made to climate change contributors

-this could cause a 25-100% reduction in snow depths in the west and reduce the length of the northeast's snow season by half

- the US wintersports industry is currently valued at approximately $12.2 billion

-over the past decade, the downhill ski resort industry lost $1.07 billion which resulted in a loss of 13,000 to 27,000 jobs

Whitetail deer in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands.  I think I took this picture about a decade ago.  Will this eventually be a sight of the past?

Well, sufficed to say, I think that sucks.  I am sure that many people in the wintersports industry and wintersports enthusiasts would agree with me.  I like to go cross country skiing, ice climbing and build snowmen.  For many years, my paychecks were largely made from selling equipment and clothing for winter time activities.  But at the same time, many of my other actions contributed towards the progression of climate change.  I drove my car to the ski hill and the state forest.  I flew in a plane to go climb a volcano and note it's receding glaciers.  I also took planes 3 or 4 times a year to attend national outdoor and ski industry trade shows along with thousands of others who had done the same.

Here, quoted in full, is the last paragraph from the conclusions of the above report:

We must safeguard our winters and with them, a way of life for thousands of communities, a global winter sports industry, and local business across the United States. We can do this by supporting clean-energy and climate policies that reduce our carbon pollution, and opposing attempts to block such policies from moving forward. We need to protect the laws we have, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set carbon pollution standards for major polluting industries. And we need to put in place policies and standards for the longer term that will ensure that vibrant, prosperous winters endure for generations to come.

I think these are all correct and admirable goals to combat climate change and our disappearing winters.  There are plenty of industries and societal practices that produce large amounts of carbon emissions that we need to address.  But I think that we as wintersports lovers also need to be honest and not ignore our own contributions to climate change as well.  What do I mean by that?

-just about every snow film in recent history that I see at the Banff Film Festival world tour involves someone flying to Alaska and then getting helicoptered to the top of a peak, again and again

-the outdoor and snowsports industries host numerous national (and international) trade shows each year where thousands of folks fly and drive great distances to attend

-snowmobilers drive trucks the size of tanks into the state forest and then run their snowmachines for the entire day

-folks fly from areas of little or poor snow to the West and go skiing

-areas with poor snow run snowguns that draw electricity for long stretches of the winter

And why do I bother to mention this?  I don't like to see lovers of winter only point their finger at someone else, be that big industry, coal, cars, etc.  While those are very real and significant contributors to global warming, I would ask people to keep in mind that just about no one is innocent in this problem.  And I unequivocally include myself as a contributor to global warming as well.  So I am asking is that all of us that love winter and want to see it stick around in our lifetimes, remember to look inward as well as outward.  Not only do we owe it to ourselves so that we may keep skiing and boarding, but I would argue that we owe it to future generations of skiers and snowboarders.

Okay.  I'll shut up now.


  1. I read your thought provoking blog entry a couple of days ago. As per usual, I had to think about how I wanted to respond. I am a person to like you has made many changes in my life so that I impact nature less. I agree with you that the snow industry is helping to kill the thing that they supposedly love. I live in the land of the frozen tundra. We live for our snow sports here. Without snow, the winters are long & hard. I wish our government leaders would get their heads out of their asses & make a comprehensive plan to change our future energy consumption but I don't see that happening soon. So, I agree that each of us as individuals need to look at our own actions & understand that their are always consequences. We need to know that what we do will make a difference to future generations. Thanks again for such a insightful post.

    1. Cindy,

      I am glad that this made you stop and ponder for a day or two! Hopefully other lovers of winter will think on the subject before it is too late to make a difference.