Comment: Climate change threatens downhills and uphill talks


Sunset on the ski gondola in Telluride, Colorado. Picture: Brooklyn Peppo

By Brooklyn Peppo

The ski lift is one of the only socially acceptable places to talk to strangers.

The 10-minute conversations sitting on frozen metal seats dangling 15 feet above rocky cliffs are my favorite part of the sport.

With glasses and scarves covering faces, identities are a mystery.

But each descent of the mountain offers a brief opportunity to meet a friend on the way back, much like speed dating.

Recently, I rode a chairlift with a man at the Winter Park resort in Colorado. He fell in love with the sport and retired to the mountains to ski. He gave me a complete summary of his life, like one does on a long chairlift up a mountain.

He said he had a few children and now many grandchildren. It is his mission to share his love of skiing with them. Once they are old enough. He hopes to teach them all to ski.

However, he fears the sport will not be the same for his young grandchildren. Due to climate change, powder days may be fewer, races will be limited by less snowfall and shorter seasons.

“The planet could warm 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040 if we do nothing to change our current emissions,” according to Protect Our Winters’ 2020 annual report.

Concerns about climate change are universal in the ski community. Sport is impossible to practice without cold temperatures.

The tracks of hundreds of skiers cross the fresh powder of Snowbird Utah. Picture: Brooklyn Peppo

“Our biggest problem is battling Mother Nature, you know we can’t make snow in warm temperatures,” said Joe Breighner, director of ski operations and property support at The Highlands resort in the north. of Michigan, near Mackinaw City.

The outdoor sports industry offers great economic benefits. Protect Our Winters, which is a nonprofit advocate for climate-friendly policy change, reports that the industry employs 7.6 million people, generating $887 billion in economic revenue worldwide. Unfortunately, this industry is extremely vulnerable to weather conditions and climate change has the potential to decimate it, reports POW.

The Highlands have already seen a reduction in snowfall over the years, Breighner said. The station will start investing in new snow cannons that will use innovative technology and operate on low power consumption to produce more snow faster.

Ski resorts need to advocate for systematic changes to reduce emissions and slow global warming in order to plan for their long-term success, said Lora Bodmer, senior director of media and public relations at POW.

In addition to climate change, economic factors are also contributing to the decline of accessible skiing. The 2021 International Snow and Mountain Tourism Report shows a decline in ski areas in the United States, with 700 ski areas in the 1980s now down to 500.

Rising infrastructure costs and rising customer expectations are pushing small community ski resorts out of business, according to the 2021 International Snow and Mountain Tourism Report. So it is difficult for beginners to get into the sport.

Skiing is an incredible sport. Anyone of any age can participate. It doesn’t necessarily require athleticism, and it’s not too difficult to descend Bunny Hill with no experience.

It’s a hobby that I and millions of people around the world enjoy.

Climate change threatens its existence.

Without policy change that reduces fossil fuel emissions, my joy of befriending a stranger while swinging on the chairlift is threatened. Future generations, including this man’s grandchildren, will not have the same experience.

Brooklyn Peppo is a reporter for Great Lakes Echo. This is part of an occasional series of essays on the impacts of climate change.


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