Record editorial: Dry start to ski season underscores looming threat of climate change
On top of all of the other problems facing the Park City community, it has not been a stellar start to the ski season as far as Mother Nature is concerned.
As of Thursday, Park City Mountain Resort reported 67 inches of snowfall this winter and a base depth of 21 inches, while the base at Deer Valley Resort was 22 inches. Both resorts have made enough snow to open some terrain and keep the lifts turning, but it’s never promising when the snow plow crews are getting this much rest.
While a lackluster start to the season always causes heartburn for Parkites, there’s still plenty of time for this winter to turn around. What is more concerning in the long term is that this could become the norm rather than the exception.
A 2010 study by the University of Colorado and American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education, for instance, predicts that climate change will reduce snow depths by 20% to 40% at PCMR by 2050, while by 2075 a worst-case scenario could mean “skiable snow at the base area is unlikely for the entire ski season.”
Concern about the effect of climate change on Park City’s snow-reliant tourism economy is one of the factors spurring City Hall and the County Courthouse’s aggressive goals toward net-zero carbon usage. Likewise, PCMR and Deer Valley, seeing climate change as an existential threat to the ski industry, have each made environmental sustainability a priority. The resorts, notably, have partnered with the local governments on an ambitious renewable energy program, in addition to pursuing smaller goals like diverting waste from landfills and outfitting the slopes with more efficient snowmaking machines.
Compared to a pandemic that has sickened tens of millions and altered life as we know it, climate change can seem like a distant threat. But scientists warn that we must act fast. Time, they caution, is running thin for the world to make the kind of dramatic progress necessary to reverse climate change.
The prospect of people a generation or two from now not being able to shred the slopes in Park City each winter, while disappointing to those who are passionate about snowsports, hardly qualifies as a disaster along the lines of the threat posed by the worst anticipated effects of climate change like supercharged wildfires and decimated ecosystems.
Yet with almost all Parkites relying to some degree on the economic benefits our tourism industry provides, a lack of snowfall — or even just significantly less of it — would be devastating.
Parkites can be proud to live in a community that takes climate change seriously, and where leaders are not content to sit back and let others tackle the problem, even if they acknowledge that we cannot do it alone.
Our dedication on this topic is not only out of a desire to protect the natural environment and pass on a healthy planet to our children and grandchildren. It is, in part, crucial to a thriving future for our town.
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