Ski Industry in Crisis: How Climate Change is Impacting Winter Sports

Ski Industry in Crisis: How Climate Change is Impacting Winter Sports
Photo by Lukas Seitz / Unsplash
The ski industry, once a thriving sector of the tourism and leisure industry, is facing an unprecedented crisis. Climate change, driven by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, has drastically altered the natural environment, and the impacts on the ski industry are becoming increasingly apparent. As temperatures rise, snowfall patterns shift and glaciers melt, ski resorts around the world are struggling to adapt to the changing climate. In this blog post, we will explore the ways in which climate change is affecting the ski industry and the urgent need for action to mitigate its impacts.

Declining Snowfall and Shorter Seasons

One of the most visible impacts of climate change on the ski industry is declining snowfall and shorter winter seasons. Rising temperatures are causing changes in precipitation patterns, resulting in less snowfall and more rainfall in many regions. Ski resorts that rely on natural snow for their operations are facing significant challenges as they experience fewer days with optimal snow conditions and shorter seasons. As a result, many ski resorts are forced to rely more heavily on artificial snowmaking, which requires large amounts of energy, water, and investment in infrastructure. This not only adds to the operating costs of ski resorts but also contributes to further environmental degradation and carbon emissions.

Melting Glaciers

Glaciers, which are vital for the skiing industry as they provide a reliable source of natural snow and contribute to a stable water supply, are rapidly melting due to climate change. Rising temperatures are causing glaciers to shrink, and some ski resorts that were once popular for glacier skiing are now facing the risk of losing their glaciers altogether. For example, the famous Mer de Glace glacier in the French Alps has been receding at an alarming rate, threatening the viability of the Chamonix ski resort. The loss of glaciers not only affects the skiing experience but also impacts the local ecosystem and water resources, as glaciers act as natural reservoirs, storing water that is released slowly over time.

Economic Impact on Local Communities

The ski industry is not only about skiing, but it also plays a significant role in the economic well-being of local communities. Ski resorts often serve as major employers and drivers of tourism, supporting local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and shops. However, the impacts of climate change on the ski industry are also resulting in economic losses for local communities. With declining snowfall and shorter seasons, ski resorts are struggling to attract visitors and generate revenue. Some ski resorts are even facing financial challenges that threaten their survival. For example, in the United States, several ski resorts have had to close down due to a lack of snowfall and reduced visitation, leading to job losses and economic downturns in those communities.

Environmental Consequences

The ski industry, which heavily relies on pristine natural environments, is also contributing to its own challenges. Ski resort development often involves deforestation, habitat destruction, and increased energy consumption, leading to additional carbon emissions and environmental degradation. Moreover, the reliance on artificial snowmaking to compensate for the declining snowfall is exacerbating the water scarcity issue in some regions. The excessive use of water for snowmaking can strain local water resources, threatening the survival of wildlife and ecosystems that depend on them.

Call for Action

The ski industry is at a critical juncture, and urgent action is needed to address the impacts of climate change. Governments, ski resorts, and stakeholders in the industry must work collaboratively to implement effective strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the ski industry. This may include investing in renewable energy sources to reduce carbon emissions, improving water management practices to minimize the impact on local water resources, and adopting sustainable practices in resort development and operations. Additionally, efforts should be made to raise awareness among skiers and tourists about the impacts of climate change on the ski industry and encourage them to make sustainable choices such as carpooling, using public transportation, and supporting environmentally responsible ski resorts.

Furthermore, ski resorts should diversify their offerings to reduce their reliance on snow-based activities. This may include expanding their offerings to include activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and zip-lining during the non-snow seasons to generate revenue and attract visitors throughout the year. Additionally, ski resorts should invest in snowmaking technologies that are energy-efficient and use recycled or treated water to minimize their environmental impact.

Governments also play a crucial role in addressing climate change and its impacts on the ski industry. Policies and regulations should be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy sources, protect natural environments, and incentivize sustainable practices in the ski industry. Governments can also support research and development of innovative solutions to adapt to the changing climate, such as snow preservation techniques and glacier protection measures.

Finally, raising awareness and educating the public about the impacts of climate change on the ski industry is vital. Ski resorts, environmental organizations, and local communities should collaborate to engage in educational campaigns, workshops, and events to promote sustainable practices among skiers and tourists. Through education and awareness, individuals can be empowered to make informed choices that can help mitigate the impacts of climate change on the ski industry.


The ski industry is facing unprecedented challenges due to climate change, including declining snowfall, shorter seasons, melting glaciers, economic losses, and environmental degradation. Urgent action is needed to mitigate these impacts and ensure the sustainability of the ski industry for future generations. This requires collaborative efforts from governments, ski resorts, stakeholders, and individuals to invest in sustainable practices, adopt innovative solutions, and raise awareness about the importance of protecting our natural environment. By taking action now, we can help safeguard the future of the ski industry and ensure that winter sports continue to thrive in a changing climate. Together, we can make a difference and preserve the magic of skiing for generations to come.

The Nivelle ski resort closed in 2009 after being open for over a hundred years, indicating that ski resorts are facing closure due to various reasons such as disrepair or declining popularity.

  1. Ski visits were down 11% last season, with the number of alpine skiers falling from over 11 million to just over 8 million. This suggests a decline in demand for skiing as a recreational activity.
  2. The number of ski visits is back to what they were 30 years ago, indicating stagnation in the ski industry's growth.
  3. Baby boomers represent 21% of all skiers and snowboarders, down from 36% a decade ago, suggesting a decline in participation among older generations.
  4. Millennials, who are expected to replace the income generated by older skiers, are skiing less often and taking shorter trips compared to baby boomers.
  5. Climate change is a significant issue facing the ski industry, with ski seasons experiencing low snowfall resulting in a drop in skier numbers and a potential negative impact on home values near ski resorts.
  6. College loan debt has doubled in the last ten years, leaving Millennials with less disposable income to spend on recreational activities like skiing.
  7. The cost of skiing, including warm clothing, equipment rental, and ski school fees, can be prohibitively expensive for new skiers.
  8. Retention rates for first-time skiers are low, with only about 7% of them continuing to ski after trying it once.
Fact/Data Supporting Evidence
Decline in ski visits Ski visits were down 11% last season, with the number of alpine skiers falling from over 11 million to just over 8 million.
Stagnation in industry growth The number of ski visits is back to what they were 30 years ago.
Decline in participation among older generations Baby boomers represent 21% of all skiers and snowboarders, down from 36% a decade ago.
Decline in participation among Millennials Millennials ski less often and take shorter trips compared to baby boomers.
Impact of climate change Ski seasons with low snowfall result in a drop in skier numbers and potential negative impact on home values near ski resorts.
Financial challenges for Millennials College loan debt has doubled in the last ten years, leaving Millennials with less disposable income to spend on recreational activities like skiing.
High cost of skiing Skiing can be prohibitively expensive for new skiers, including costs for warm clothing, equipment rental, and ski school fees.
Low retention rates for first-time skiers Retention rates for first-time skiers are low, with only about 7% of them continuing to ski after trying it once.