“All the projections that I’ve seen and made myself show more precipitation falling out of the sky. The problem is, we’re getting it as more and more rain instead of snow. And then between those snow events, warmer temperatures will melt out the snowpack.”– Jonathan Winter, Dartmouth College Climate Scientist.
Climate change played its part in the United State ski industry’s struggles with a consistent snowpack this winter. Places like Utah and California entered a long drought in January and February, while New England saw more rain than snow for a large chunk of ski season. According to WMUR, it’s only going to get worse. Climate scientists, particularly professor Alix Contosta at the University of New Hampshire and climate scientist Jonathan Winter at Dartmouth College, are warning that the warm and wetter trends will continue in the coming decades. The results from the study are staggering. New England ski resorts will see 50% less snowfall in the next eighty years. Depending on the increase in temperatures, ski resorts could lose 30-60% of their snowmaking days. With the warmer temperatures, the scientists project that only 15% of the ski resorts in New England and southern Quebec will still be open by 2100.
The various charts below describe the following: how the rise in temperatures will rapidly decrease the number of days mountains can make snow, and how the average temperature and precipitation in New Hampshire have grown considerably over the past century. I think the forecast is a little dramatic, as I imagine snowmaking technology will continue to innovate in the coming decades. Another benefit that the East Coast has compared to its western counterparts that are experiencing drought conditions is that the East has the water supplies to continue to blow snow.
In spite of this optimism, there’s no doubt though that the number of powder days is going to decline by a considerable amount, the amount of terrain that they’ll be able to open for critical holiday periods will likely decrease, and our mountains will be opening later/closing earlier. And those who don’t continue to modify and grow their snowmaking systems will likely need to shut down eventually. A video describing their findings is below.