Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Vermont Ski Museum Hosts Climate Change Discussion

A section of the 35-tracker solar farm at Smugglers’ Notch Resort, with the ski trails on Madonna Mtn. in the background. Image: Smugglers’ Notch.

Roger Lohr

The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum in Stowe, Vermont is hosting a Red Bench Discussion on April 11th at 6:00pm on the topic of “Actions to Slow Climate Change.”

Participants in the discussion will include a representative from the Protect Our Winters organization, which is a nonprofit climate advocacy group in the winter sports community building a movement against climate change; Nick Sargent of Snowsports Industries America, a member organization of a new coalition called the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership including SnowSports Industries America (SIA), Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), and state ski area groups from California, Colorado, Vermont and others; Burton Snowboards on sustainability, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and others.

Climate Change Discussion

In December 2018, NASJA and Stratton Mountain produced the Northeast Winter Weather Summit to begin a dialogue between ski areas and meteorologists in the region, and at the event there was interest in discussing the issue of climate change. While the topic was intentionally kept off the program agenda, because it did not correlate with the event goals, the topic was briefly discussed following a comment by one of the meteorologist presenters. The back-and-forth was highlighted with an outburst by an attendee asking whether meteorologists consider themselves scientists, not exactly a productive dialogue.

The snowsports industry is somewhat divided on the issue of climate change for a number of reasons beyond labels such as “deniers” and “warmists.” One of the elephants in the ski industry’s room is the amount of energy it takes to run a ski area that uses snowmaking, multiple high-performing lifts, slope grooming, heating, and so on. There have been great strides with energy efficiency on all fronts, and many ski resorts are exploring sustainable practices in various aspects of their operations. The industry has a multitude of programs such as the NSAA Sustainable Slopes and Climate Challenge and there are a number of snow sport organizations that lobby the government.

Will bankers be reluctant to provide financial support to ski industry businesses, because they don’t understand snowmaking and their concern that the more southerly ski areas’ days may be numbered due to global warming? Many ski areas have invested in renewable energy credits (RECs) or power purchase agreements, and there is some resentment about that practice when it is juxtaposed against on-site emission reductions, energy savings and/or energy production.

Writers such as Allen Best in Denver and Alan Betts in Vermont recognize solar and other forms of renewable energy, but they’ve questioned RECs, “The buying and selling of RECs does not help the Earth at all. It is a delaying tactic providing a fig leaf, so that states can pretend they are making the transition, when they are not shutting down fossil fuel plants fast enough, and building renewable alternatives. No amount of honest or fictitious bean-counting can hide this critical and disturbing fact.”

Of course, information and education are key, and there is a great need for the ski industry to become aware of the prominent issues associated with climate change starting at every company.

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