A new report paints a fairly bleak future for B.C. ski resorts unless significant action is undertaken to avoid a worst-case global warming scenario, predicting Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) could lose 12 per cent of its average season by the 2050s.
The report summarizes new research on the impact of climate change and was put together by Protect Our Winters Canada (POW Canada), a growing climate-change advocacy organization that aims to deepen the skiing public’s understanding of global warming and its many impacts.
The report, titled Losing Our Cool: The Future of Snowsports in a Warmer World, anchors its troubling findings through the careers of Olympic Gold medalists Nancy Greene Raine (gold 1968) and Ashleigh McIvor (gold in 2010).
The average global surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius since the 1880s, a slow and gradual increase that scientists attribute to increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. The warming trend is expected to continue going forward.
Just how much this affects resorts depends on many factors, including their elevation, latitude and how effective greenhouse gas reductions are.
“Even with massive advancement and investment in snowmaking…Sun Peaks is projected to lose 12 per cent of their current season by the 2050s and nearly a quarter of their season by the 2080s if the world continues to emit carbon at a high intensity,” stated the report.
The report also stated impacts will be even worse at lower elevation resorts, with many Ontario ski hills expected to have seasons of less than 20 days in the 2080s, even with a significant investment in snowmaking.
Daniel Scott, executive director at the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo, said Sun Peaks will likely be more “climate resilient” than other resorts in Canada, and that from a purely economic standpoint, this could benefit it.
“What I try to tell resorts like [Sun Peaks] is that there’s a possibility that you gain market share, because you lose competitors,” said Scott. “Even though your season is shorter, you might get more skier visits, because some of your competitors may be really slammed.”
Scott added that while a 12 per cent loss in ski days seems high, some resorts, such as Austria’s Kitzbuhel and those in California stand to lose far more of their season.
“There’s gonna be a lot of regional markets, where you’re gonna have like a couple places left standing by later in the century,” said Scott.
David Erb, executive director of POW Canada, said the report’s authors chose to ground the findings in the stories of Raine and McIvor because they are “ingrained in ski culture” and it helps to illustrate the challenges posed by climate change.
“She’s a prominent Canadian that is totally a household name,” said Erb. “Her gold medal in ‘68 was very significant.”
Erb added discussing the significant impacts that climate change is having on skil hills is a powerful way to motivate change.
“Historically, climate change organizations have shown pictures of polar bears stranded on icebergs and forest fires in Brazil,” said Erb. “And those things are important and motivate certain people, but we also know that they don’t motivate enough people.
“I think that connecting people’s passion and and showing them how climates can impact these places and experiences they love can bring new people into the climate movement.”
With many countries, including Canada, having already committed to targets they haven’t been able to reach, Scott said it’s imperative that Canada redouble its efforts to hit the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, which would reduce the country’s emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels.
He would also like to see Canada “ratchet up” its commitments.
“Even if we delivered on everything that’s in the pan-Canadian framework, our pledges are not enough to do our part to keep the world to plus two,” said Erb.
You can read POW Canada’s report here.
Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.