Winter tourism hit by climate change

Dec. 6, 2012 at 4:26 PM
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DURHAM, N.H., Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Warmer winters have cost the tourism industry $1 billion and are expected to create escalating losses, a University of New Hampshire study says.

More than 200,000 jobs in 38 states depend on consistent winter conditions, the study conducted by researchers Elizabeth Burakowski and Matthew Magnusson says.

Altogether, the $12.2 billion winter tourism industry is suffering from fewer winter weather days and spottier snow cover on ski slopes.

"Without intervention, winter temperatures are projected to warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snow cover area, snowfall and shorter snow season," the report says.

"Snow depths could decline in the west by 25 percent to 100 percent. The length of the snow season in the northeast will be cut in half," says the report, titled "Climate impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States."

The study was conducted on behalf of Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Warmer weather "spells significant economic uncertainty for a winter sports industry deeply dependent upon predictable, heavy snowfall," Burakowski said in a statement.

"Without a stable climate, our industry, our jobs, the economies of mountain communities everywhere and the valued lifestyle of winter will be gone. It's our obligation as athletes and businesspeople, parents and citizens, to act," said POW Executive Director Chris Steinkamp.

The study found appreciable snowfall days had decreased in every state with major investment in winter recreation. From the peak snowfall years to the lowest between November 1999 and April 2010, visits by skiers dropped 7.7 percent in Colorado, 31 percent in Oregon, 36 percent in Wisconsin and 14 percent in Utah.

Among eastern states, visits dropped 9.5 percent in Vermont, 12 percent in Pennsylvania, 17 percent in New Hampshire and 10 percent in New York.

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