Let me just state the obvious up front: I am not a scientist. Nonetheless, indulge me a little bit on the subject of climate change (a phrase that cracks me up; the climate has been changing since Earth first came into existence). During the month of December, two different reports came out that sounded enormous warning bells for our industry. One, from the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change in Ontario, claims that more than half of the Northeast’s ski areas will not be economically viable in 30 years if the warming trend continues. The other, by two researchers from the University of New Hampshire, hit us where it really hurts. They claim that the impact of climate change has cost us up to $1.9 billion already this past decade.
Obviously, I am oversimplifying, shrinking a couple long reports into bite-sized media chunks. And the media bit, all right. A headline in the New York Times read, “Rising Temperatures Threaten Fundamental Change for Ski Slopes.” And here’s another from a local Connecticut paper: “Connecticut’s Few Remaining Ski Areas Adapt To Warmer Winters But Face Gloomy Future: One Scenario Says Climate Change Will End Ski Industry Here Within 30 Years.” And that’s just in my little corner of the world. The “shrinking winter” story was picked up from coast to coast, in media outlets both big and small.
According to the scaremongering going on in the media right now, a fair number of us might as well pack up our skis and head to Canada (you guys don’t mind, do you?) or start investing in water parks.
But wait just a minute here. Didn’t we just have a record season not two seasons ago? And didn’t we break 60 million visits nationwide in 2007? In fact, we’ve been breaking a number of records in terms of length of season and snowfall numbers, in addition to visits, over the last decade. And, these folks are not coming to slide on our dirt.
I am not going to get into the ins and outs of climate change here. That is for the scientists to wrangle over and there seem to be about 12 different points of view on the subject, each with compelling arguments. But we need to do something about the media. They are painting a very dismal future for us and listening only to one side: the trendy one. And by trendy, I mean the gloomiest and doomiest stuff they can dig up.
Where has fair-minded reporting gone? Thankfully, Jason Blevins of the Denver Post called it like it is, at least for Colorado. He pointed out that the report didn’t get it quite right for his state and that, “Colorado’s ski resorts’ experience wasn’t nearly that dismal last year, the worst [snowfall] season in decades. The local numbers show that Colorado’s resorts have swiftly adapted to low-snow years.”
There is another story to tell, we just need to be heard.