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“What Should a Ski Company that Cares About Sustainability Be Doing?”*

*No, shutting down isn’t an option.

Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company and a board member of Protect Our Winters wants to hear answers to that question from Climate Progress readers.

He acknowledges that skiing has “limited redeeming value from a sustainability perspective.”

I would add that unless the world acts to reverse emissions trends very rapidly and sharply through efficiency, conservation, and clean energy, much of the U.S. skiing industry is likely to be rapidly collapsing by sometime in the 2030s, if not sooner. Peak oil (making air travel expensive) together with a shrinking season will seriously undermine profitability.

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The latest science says that we are losing our snow mass — and the primary cause is human emissions (see “USGS: Global Warming Drives Rockies Snowpack Loss Unrivaled in 800 Years, Threatens Western Water Supply“).

And no, one snowy winter doesn’t change that, as USGS scientist and co-author Julio Betancourt explained, “The La Niña episode this year is an example with lots of snow in the north while severe drought afflicts the south. But, in the north, this year’s gains are only a small blip on a century-long snowpack decline.”

The lead author, USGS scientist Gregory Pederson, explained, “What we have seen in the last few decades may signal a fundamental shift from precipitation to temperature as the dominant influence on western snowpack.

What’s particularly worrisome is that we’ve seen these dramatic and harmful changes already — and we’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in the past half century. We are on track to warm ten times times that this century. At the same time, the Southwest is drying out.

I’ve been told that losing just another few weeks from the ski season would make many if not most resorts unprofitable.

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So, what should a ski company that cares about sustainability be doing — in its last few decades of profitability?