But now Aspen's own season is getting shorter: "More balmy Novembers, more rainy Marches," Schendler [Auden Schendler, executive director of sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company] says. "That's what we're seeing, and that's what the science suggests would happen. If you graph frost-free days, there are more and more in the last 30 years." Climate-change models also predict warmer nights. Aspen Skiing has noticed that happening too, and the problem here is that nighttime is when ski lodges use their water-spraying technology to make snow—"and if you make it when it's warmer it's exponentially more expensive." The increasing volatility of weather overall—another prediction of climate change—poses a particular danger for ski resorts, because they operate in the red most of the year, making up their deficit during the ultra busy spring break in March. So if the weather is terrific for the entire winter but suddenly balmy during March break, that can ruin the whole fiscal year.
Schendler has also learned firsthand a point that climate scientists have been making for some time: With climate change, "warming" isn't the only—or even the most serious—challenge. The sheer interdependence of complex ecosystems systems can grease you. For example, recent droughts in Utah have kicked up red dust clouds that settle on Aspen's snow. This makes the snow melt more quickly (because the red absorbs more heat from the sun) while also making it too gritty to ski on.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Aspen Skiing and Climate Change
From Slate, in April:
Posted by David Appell at 6/18/2010 05:41:00 PM