Global Warming and the US Ski Industry
My father used to work for the Mt. Mansfield Company ... also known as Stowe. Stowe is owned by the massive insurance company AIG, which essentially writes off the operations there as an annual loss. If I recall correctly, Stowe did not turn a profit during my father's tenure there, which would have been about 1990 - 1996. The northeastern US ski industry has been in contraction for the past 25 years. The number of ski areas in America has plummeted since the 1960s and the industry has had a lot of trouble attracting new participants. The high cost of equipment and daily ticket rates are likely culprits. If snowboarding had not come along when it did, the industry would likely be in much worse shape than it is.
Then again, the industry is not in good shape - especially this year with lack of snow and very warm temperatures.
Were I the owner of an eastern US ski area, I probably would have sold out of the business already. I think the future looks very grim for low elevation eastern ski resorts given the temperature rises we are now experiencing due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Not only will there be less natural snow, but costs will rise as these areas have to make snow any chance they get. Making artificial snow is very energy intensive and very costly. I love to ski and ride, but the business model doesn't make any sense in the global warming world. Plus, the customer experience at these resorts will be less than ideal, meaning it will be that much more difficult to attract new and repeat business.
Any industry that relies on snow or consistently cold temperatures for the bulk of its revenue is obviously treading on thin ice in 2007 and years beyond. This season may be the final nail in the coffin for several more American ski areas. I wonder what other industries will be negatively impacted by global warming. I wonder what will happen to states like Vermont, where tourism drives the local economy.