Speak Out :: Media and Climate Change

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.”

Thanks, Jason!

There is another story to tell, we just need to be heard.
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Back to basics (again) !!

Most people understand that the "climate change" issue is not simply about the fact that the climate is changing but in fact is about the increasing RATE of change. Most people understand that one big snow year does not prove anything. Neither does one summer of heat waves. In fact one season of anything is more generally thought of as weather whereas climate is a longer term concept. Most people understand that the media is not to blame for the rate of climate change or the weather and that it is doing its job by reporting on the issue. But, not everyone understands all that (yet), obviously!

reverse psychology

Did you ever think this could work like reverse psychology? Maybe all those "sky is falling" reports will generate a short term increase in skier visits because folks will want to get their last licks in before all the snow is gone for good??

Climate Change

Anyone who does not think climate change is the real deal has his/her head stuck in the sand. Yes we will occasionaly have a banner snow year but unfortunatly the statistics are all pointing in the wrong direction. Ski Areas can make technological adjustments in the form of better more efficient snowmaking, increased pump capacity etc. What ski areas can't do is overcome the mind set that happens related to the no snow in the back yard syndrome. Survival, for many of us, will be more related to how we can better use our facilities during the much heavier (potential) warm weather tourist season....winter will become a way of keeping some of our key warm weather employees working rather than the other way around.