Brower: Climate change bodes ill for our local economy


As I sit here watching the snow dump on our already snowed-in landscape, I am reminded of the article written by John Meyer that ran in the Denver Post way back on November 27, 2021.

In the realm of weather perception, that seems like eons ago. Try and remember the hand-wringing that was going on then. Many ski resorts in Colorado had delayed their openings from early or mid-November to late November. And the openings, as they were, featured very limited terrain on less than desirable snow.

Right here in Granby, where the Granby Ranch Ski Area was planning a major professional ski race, the worry was causing ulcers and real fear. They just weren’t able to make enough snow.



Why? It wasn’t cold enough — at night, especially.

These not-so-cold temperatures were disturbing because it wasn’t so long ago that ski areas, even if it wasn’t actually snowing in November, could count on cold temperatures so that they could make snow. That was a huge innovation in the industry that expanded ski seasons, brought tourists to ski communities a month or two early, and made for a longer season and more prosperous economy in general.



Take away the cold air, make it warmer and that innovation begins to be, well, diminished, and in some places, nonexistent.

The gist of John Meyer’s article was that most people in the ski industry are increasingly aware of the threat that climate change poses to their business model. They look at it, rightfully so, as an existential threat. It is. It poses some threat to our overall local economy too.

Even worse, the extent of climate change and warming is more extreme in places like Grand County and the mountain West, where ski areas are generally located. Consider this from the Denver Post: “An analysis by the Washington Post highlights the climate change challenge facing the region. Based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data between 1895 and 2019, the analysis found that a group of counties in northwest Colorado and Eastern Utah warmed more than 3.6 degree Fahrenheit. That’s double the global average.”

Great.

And the future trends, based on climate models, “predict that average temperatures in Colorado could rise 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050,” states John Fox in the article by John Meyer. Fox wrote a recently published book called “The Last Winter.”

No matter how I look at it, the prospect of shorter ski seasons and, perhaps, nearly nonexistent ski seasons, seems very real.

The industry is trying to do something about it. Ski areas are buying green power to run their lifts, initiating energy-saving programs and trying to reduce their carbon foot prints. Must most importantly, several of the large players are banding together to do what they can to confront the real threat of climate change.

John Meyer states in his article: “Like Aspen, Vail Resorts is involved in combating climate change through the public policy arena. This year it announced a partnership with competitors Alterra Mountain Company, Powdr and Boyne Resort to present a united front in something called the Climate Collaborate Charter. Alterra operates 15 North American resorts including Steamboat and Winter Park. Powdr operates 11, including Copper Mountain and Eldora.”

I want to believe that this consortium of ski areas can start to promote and enact the message that climate change is the biggest challenge of our century. It is an existential threat, not only to the ski industry. My hope is that battling climate change can become a unifying (and non-partisan, non-culture war) national endeavor like when the U.S. fought in WWII. God knows that our nation needs a unifying effort the can help bring us together under a common cause.

And, just maybe, help our local economy too.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

 



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