While the thought of avoiding winter might sound nice, the actual impact of warming temperatures in cold months is nothing to wish for. Already in most U.S. states, winters have already warmed faster than any other season and as Climate Central reported those warmer winters are coming with serious (and rising) costs. Mild winter temperatures can interfere with crop growth; let disease-carrying pests, such as mosquitos, creep further into the cold season; and disrupt water supplies in places that rely on the slow melting of snowpack. America’s cold-weather recreation sector has a particularly big stake in warming winters. Activities from downhill skiing to ice fishing and outdoor ice hockey all rely on low temperatures, ample snowfall, or both. Every year, winter recreation contributes billions of dollars to the United States’ economy. Check out Climate Central’s own analysis of average winter warming in Burlington, VT a city that’s an epicenter for winter sports:
In a 2012 analysis, Protect Our Winters (POW) and NRDC found that the winter sports tourism industry generates $12.2 billion and 23 million Americans participate in winter sports annually. That study found that changes in the winter season driven by climate change were costing the downhill ski resort industry approximately $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue over high and low snow years over the last decade. Additionally, a report released last year from POW and REI revealed that the profits generated from winter sports extend beyond the slopes as tourist dollars also help support surrounding community hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, sporting goods stores and gas stations. In total participation in skiing and snowmobiling in 2015-2016 supported over 191,000 jobs and generated a total of $6.9 billion in wages, and added a total of $11.3 billion in economic value to the national economy.
And lastly, if the stats and figures aren’t thrilling enough check out our recent interview with Olympic downhill skiing champion Lindsey Vonn who told us first hand about the challenge that climate change is creating for elite skiers to find reliable snow for races.
Why This Matters: Climate change is the #1 threat to the global economy and the winter sports industry represents just one of the sectors that will be highly affected. This is also a good reminder that regardless of whether you “believe” in climate change or not, the tangible effects will affect everyone and are already being felt. This is why more Americans are beginning to understand that climate change is an urgent threat, unfortunately, our collective lag in taking action will likely increase the likelihood that extreme weather events will become more frequent.