Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Study: Climate change to mean shorter ski seasons in Rockies

Wenatchee World: A study of two Rocky Mountain ski resorts says climate change will mean shorter seasons and less snow on lower slopes. The study by two Colorado researchers says Aspen Mountain in Colorado and Park City in Utah will see dramatic changes even with a reduction in carbon emissions, which fuel climate change.

University of Colorado-Boulder geography professor Mark Williams said that the resorts should be in fairly good shape the next 25 years, but after that there will be less snowpack — or no snow at all — at the base areas, and the season will be shorter because snow will accumulate later and melt earlier.

If carbon emissions increase, the average temperature at Park City will be 10.4 degrees warmer by 2100, and there likely will be no snowpack, according to the study. Skiing at Aspen, with an average temperature 8.6 degrees higher than now, will be marginal.

The key to the survival of the larger ski areas in the Rockies will be adaptation, according to the study by Williams and Brian Lazar, a scientist at Boulder-based Stratus Consulting. The researchers said they expect many U.S. ski areas to follow the lead of resorts in the European Alps already dealing with snow shortages by storing water to use for snowmaking. The two also suggest that resorts add gondolas to ferry skiers from low-snow base areas to snowier spots and expand operations at higher elevations.

…More snowmaking, though, will require more water, a challenge in an area where most of the water rights are already allocated, the researchers said.

Snowmaking, shot by Sugarloaf (apparently a press release), Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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