If you’re a lifelong snowboarder, you’ve likely already noticed a few changes to the sport. Seasons are shorter, lift ticket are more expensive, and more mountains are spending money to expand snowmaking capabilities. It’s no secret that one global phenomenon is to blame. Within a few decades, climate change will irrevocably change the ski and snowboard industry.
A 2017 study argued that within the next 70 years, ski season lengths around the world will have decreased dramatically – in some cases by as much as 80 percent. The study also found that a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could both delay and substantially reduce adverse impacts to the winter recreation industry. However, this was months before the two climate reports dropped in 2018, which reasoned that the world is fast approaching the “point of no return.”
A warming climate and decreased ski seasons will have several effects. First, you’ll have fewer days of “gnar pow” each year, and that “pow” is likely to be man-made – not naturally produced. Second, you’ll likely pay a lot more for your tickets or season passes in the coming years. Lift ticket prices already increase by around 5 percent each year, which means you could be paying double by 2025. Third, the quality of your ride will decrease dramatically; man-made snow isn’t as slippery as the natural stuff, and even the most well-designed mountains struggle with snow distribution.
All of this is, of course, given that ski resorts are able to stay in business. As the climate warms, owning and operating a ski resort becomes more unsustainable. Snowmaking machines generally require between 3,000 and 4,000 cubic meters of water per hectare of slope covered. Accordingly, it takes approximately 106 gallons of water to produce one cubic meter of snow. As fresh water availability continues to decline and electricity costs rise, this will become nearly impossible for even the largest and best-funded ski resorts to sustain.
So, what is the point of this? Cherish your next few seasons because they’ll likely never be as good as they are now. Buy your season passes as early as possible to get the best price, don’t invest in gear unless you absolutely need it, and – while you’re at it – contact your local representative to make sure they’re doing everything they can to push environmental legislative initiatives.