Free Save Our Snow Jan. 9 | ParkRecord.com

Free Save Our Snow Jan. 9

SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

Recently conducted research on the effects of global warming on the ski industry and Park City in particular will be unveiled at the free Save Our Snow event Jan. 9 at the Eccles Center starting at 6 p.m.

The results of a $60,000 climate-modeling study done by scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder will be released. Using the latest available global warming data and satellite images, the study looks at what Park City’s snow pack will likely be in 2030, 2060 and at the end of the century.

The event will include a panel discussion and question and answer session with some of the researchers, resort representatives and Mayor Dana Williams, as well as a presentation by singer Kathy Mattea.

Blair Feulner, general manager of event sponsor KPCW, said there are two different studies being presented. The first takes a look at seven different models of temperatures both at a mountain base and a mountain peak. The second takes information from the first, as well as data taken from snow and precipitation depths, and uses it to predict what the snow pack might be in the future.

"In the 26 years we’ve been on the air this is the most important thing we’ve been involved in, and it wouldn’t have happened if it wouldn’t have been for John Cumming and Powdr Corp," Feulner said. "It’s a topic that we’re pretty passionate about. We’re all into it for a lot, but a huge amount of money came from Park City Mountain and Powdr Corp."

Brian Lazar, senior associate at Stratus Consulting and presenter at the Jan. 9 event, said he couldn’t discuss the specific results of the study until then, but said the information is worth the wait.

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"We did some projections for what the future climate might look like through the end of the century and how it might impact the ski industry," he said. "It will be a presentation of results from a scientific analysis. We started doing it in early October and wrapped up results in mid-December. I ran the study, Mark Williams worked as an advisor, and about six other scientists helped as well."

Williams will participant at the event with Lazar, and said he is lucky to have been able to participate in the research.

"I love doing this stuff," Lazar said. "A lot of my motivation comes from my being an old ski guy. I got into ski guiding long before I got into any kind of consulting work. If this kind of investigation gets public interest up and effects a policy I’m glad to be a part of it."

Gerald Meehl, senior scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, served on the scientific advisory committee for the Canary Initiative in Aspen, Colo. He has also been involved in similar research for Park City and will participate in Save Our Snow.

Speaking of the Aspen project he said, "The idea was that snow elevation sensitivity could be one of the first indicators of climate change. It’s kind of like the canary in the coal mine if there’s a problem with the CO2 build-up the canary will die first and give everyone a good indicator that something is wrong."

"The interesting thing they noted in Aspen is that over the last three or four decades they’ve seen a decrease of 20 frost days, which has implications for snow making and for the ski industry from the impact of the warming that has happened already," he continued.

He said the warming trends would continue unless changes are made.

"You try to bracket the possible outcomes because there could be steps taken, policies put in place, that would decrease warming," he said. "If we were somehow able to go on the low-emissions pathway there will be more skiing into the 22nd Century. We can still do something about it, but if we’re going to do something about it, it better be pretty quick. We’re already seeing the effects on skiing and it’s just going to get worse over the next few decades."

Although there is a significant elevation difference between Aspen and Park City, Meehl said there are enough similarities between the two climates to keep the results analogous, although he wouldn’t talk specifics.

"In Park City the results would be comparable," he said. "The higher you are in elevation the longer you’ll be able to sustain some skiing. There is definite elevation dependence. You’ll see a significantly shorter ski season lower on the mountain."

Dan Richardson, Canary Initiative manager for the City of Aspen, agreed the results would likely be similar, although he did not take part in the Park City studies.

"In Aspen, we found the average temperature has increased three degrees as opposed to a national increase of one degree," he said. "The scientists have said that if your climate is similar to Aspen, it’s possible you’ll experience the same impact."

The elevation in Aspen is roughly 8,000 feet, extending to more than 12,000 feet at the town’s tallest peak. Park City sits at nearly 6,800 feet, with about 10,000 feet at the peak of Jupiter.

"Clearly it shows a trend, a pretty sound projection, that our quality of life is at stake," he said. "It doesn’t matter what your occupation or what your quality of life builds around, this warming will affect you. It will likely have a huge economic impact."

"I think people should go to the Save Our Snow event," he continued. "The wow-factor is one thing, but we hope it encourages businesses to act and we hope it helps them to adapt. There is an amount of warming that has already been caused and an adaptation needs to happens so we can mitigate the changes we can still control."

Save Our Snow will be Jan. 9 at the Eccles Center starting at 6 p.m. Visit http://www.kpcw.org for more information.