Threatened by climate change, ski industry responds by backing CCL policy

snow maker

Snow makers will be doing the work of Mother Nature on ski slopes more and more unless climate change is brought under control.

Threatened by climate change, ski industry responds by backing CCL policy

By Alex Counts

When I tell people that my wife loves to ski, they often ask how I feel about the sport.

My answer is always the same: “When you marry into a ski family, you learn to ski, and learn to enjoy it.”

And so I have.

Millions of people around the world love to hit the slopes each winter, enjoying the outdoors as they improve their technique.    Like my wife, they anticipate the opening of resorts and each wave of fresh powder as the season progresses.  As a result, more than $12 billion is spent on skiing each year in the United States alone, providing a major boost to the economies of states such as Utah, Colorado and Vermont.

But due to climate change and global warming, this entire industry is under threat.   Snow is becoming less plentiful and predictable, leading to a reduction in the number of days resorts are open and the number of trails available on any given day.  Artificial snow-making is one response, but an expensive one that can cost up to $500,000 per season for a single mountain.  Many other recreational and economic activities are or will be threatened, but few as visibly as skiing and snowboarding are today.

Fortunately, the industry is fighting back with an increasingly vigorous advocacy effort.  Most recently, the National Ski Areas Association has endorsed Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s call for a revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend and is actively working to bring this essential policy into reality.  Thirty mountain resorts have gone one step further, according to InsideClimate News, and signed on to the Associations Climate Challenge that calls on them to reduce CO2 emissions and their overall environmental footprint.

I am proud to have joined the Board of Directors of Citizen’s Climate Education earlier this year as a way of combating the preventable menace of climate change through the kind of practical advocacy and coalition-building that are this organization’s hallmarks.

In my professional life up until now, I have been focused on another global problem – poverty.  Increasingly, those of us working on this critical issue see strong linkages to climate change, and how the poor will suffer the most from global warming and related trends unless they are arrested.  Grameen Foundation, which I founded in 1997 and retired from last year, commissioned and published, with Oxfam America, the first paper on the relationship between climate change and the anti-poverty solution known as microfinance, in 2010.

With allies such as the National Ski Areas Association, the day is drawing near when previously unthinkable approaches, such as the Carbon Fee and Dividend, will be embraced by policy-makers and politicians.  One only need look at the rapid acceptance of gay marriage in the United States to realize how quickly society can change its approach.

And for me, like most people, the stakes are high on multiple levels, whether I realize it or not.  The smile on my wife’s face when ski resorts open each winter is something I want to see far into the future.  With concerted action now, this can be more than just a dream, but reality.  

Alex Counts
Alex Counts, the President of the American India Foundation and the Founder of Grameen Foundation, was a member of the board of directors of Citizen's Climate Education. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Bangladesh in 1988-89 and today serves as a Senior Alumni Ambassador for the Fulbright program.