What happened?

Climate change is affecting winter sports regions as they can no longer count on the snow to fall in early December and last until the end of the traditional skiing season. Some areas have lost as much as 40% of their average snow depth over the last decades and at least 60% of slopes worldwide are lined with snow cannons to make up for too warm or too dry winters. In the coming years, these cannons, of which larger resorts need hundreds, will drive up costs significantly as their energy (and water) bill will continue to rise with climate change. At some point, however, these machines will not suffice anymore (they can only produce snow at temperatures close to 0oC) and resorts will either have to switch to even more expensive and energyconsuming methods, or, when this is no longer feasible, limit operations to a couple of months per year.

What does this mean?

In the United States, several lowerlying resorts have already shut down due to disappointing winters and investments are concentrating on high altitude resorts that are more futureproof. A further shakeout is likely in the coming two decades and, internationally, investors (e.g. in real estate) are also eying the highest of regions. Obviously, as snow becomes a scarce good,these regions will benefit from their unique position, but the entire industry will experience a decline; rising costs are already discouraging people from going on winter holidays (e.g. in the Netherlands) and, over time, skiing is bound to become a luxury only the wealthiest households will be able to afford once again.

What’s next?

Apart from rising costs, the environmental impact of winter sports is also growing and skiing could very well be among the next consumer practices that fall prey to the “shame” trend. In the short term, this will mostly relate to the direct impact of skiing resorts in the form of deforestation and exorbitant energy and water usage. In the longer term, people will likely travel farther to reach snow sure areas (e.g. in Canada or Japan), thus further enlarging their environmental footprint with their vacation. To prevent all too heavy backlash, most ski resort are trying to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, e.g. by using renewable energy, but their efforts are unlikely to prevent groups of consumers from developing skiing shame in the (near) future.