According to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council study on global warming, whether you are a backcountry skier, a terrain-park freestyler or ski-town business owner, you should be concerned about climate change. According to the study's findings, winters are already getting warmer and will continue to do so. And that could have a devastating effect on Park City's economic mainstay, the ski industry.
The report is just one more siren call in the nation's growing alarm over changing weather patterns, including more extreme droughts and storms. There is even a mounting sea change among the climate-change deniers. Hurricane Sandy was an important turning point. It seems that seeing the waters of New York Harbor lapping at the Statue of Liberty's toes was enough to drown their claims that previous evidence of climate change was a liberal hoax.
Even in Utah, some conservative politicians are beginning to acknowledge that environmental stewardship is more than an aesthetic issue that it can have genuine health and economic impacts.
But that is not news to Park City's ski resorts, where "Save Our Snow" has been a mantra for nearly a decade. In 2006, Powdr Corp commissioned a landmark study of the effects of global warming on its flagship ski area, Park City Mountain Resort. To its credit, Powdr did not sugarcoat the results. Without some sort of mitigation, the report said, the resort could lose two-thirds of its skiable terrain by 2075. Powdr's second study in 2009 translated the lost snow into economic terms, estimating losses of nearly $400 million in revenues and 4,000 jobs by 2050.
According to the NRDC report issued last week, "Utah skier visits, which typically are about four million per year, are 14 percent lower during low snowfall years compared to high snowfall years and cost the state $87 million in revenue and over 1,000 fewer
jobs compared to snowy years."
Apparently, that has made state lawmakers sit up and take notice. It is an argument that Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, a vocal champion of the state's robust tourism industry, can't afford to ignore.
The good news is that, once again, Park City is ahead of the curve. Community and ski industry leaders have been spearheading initiatives to identify and mitigate some of the human-caused contributors to global warming.
But residents and visitors can help too. According to the nonprofit group Protect Our Winters, snow-sports fans should: "Get a more efficient car. Ride the bus. Insulate and seal your house. Tune your furnace. Buy an energy smart appliance. Put solar panels on your roof. Change your light bulbs. Put up a clothesline. Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. Use a reusable water bottle and commit to kicking your dependence on single-use plastics."
Obviously, stemming the tide of global warming is a big issue, one that will require major shifts in national policies and personal practices. Luckily, Parkites live in a community that is already on the right road. The challenge will be finding ways to encourage others, including state and national leaders, to join in. For more information log on to http://protectourwinters.org/