Session 7.11 Climate variability and change: the economic vulnerability of the skiing industry and surrounding communities in Arizona, USA

Thursday, 23 June 2005: 10:30 AM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Rosalind H. Bark-Hodgins, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and B. G. Colby

Presentation PDF (1.1 MB)

Climate change models predict declining snow pack, shorter and more variable snow seasons, warmer winter temperatures with increased incidence of winter snowpack melt and sublimation loss, earlier spring snowmelt, and an increase in the elevation at which seasonal snowpack can be maintained. The implications are significant for the ski industry because beginner skiers tend to learn at lower elevation ‘local' ski areas [1] and these same skiers are more likely to quit if ski seasons are poor [2]. Adaptation strategies such as snowmaking can reduce climate change vulnerability [3] by increasing snow pack depth, durability and season reliability. However, snowmaking is expensive; costs, excluding capital costs, range between $500 and $4,000 per acre foot of snow depending on system efficiency [4], and crucially for the southwest snowmaking also requires large volumes of water [5]. Previous research has focused on low elevation ski resorts in Europe and Canada, this paper adds to the literature by investigating the impacts of climate variability and change on low latitude, high elevation ski resorts in Arizona, USA. Arizona ski areas experience high inter-annual variability in snow reliability in terms of total snow pack, season length, and season timing. Severe winter drought conditions are common, for example in the 1983/84 and 2001/02 seasons. Such seasons, may preview longer term climate change impacts. Two case studies in Arizona, Sunrise Park and Snowbowl, highlight the opportunities and challenges of manmade snowmaking as an adaptation strategy to climate change and also to more general climate variability.
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