Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, a ski resort in North Lake Tahoe, California, is one of many ski resorts around the world grappling with the enormous problem of climate change and its significant implications for the profitability of its winter sport business. The industry expects decreased snowfall and shorter ski seasons in the future. Accordingly, the ski resort industry has been making large capital investments in snow making equipment to keep slopes open and covered in powder . Resorts also face later openings than the historical norm, meaning that there might not be snow over the critical Christmas and New Year holidays that generate lots of business and also kick off the season and perform the important function of getting skiers excited about skiing throughout the rest of the winter. Faced with fewer revenue generating days and increased costs incurred in having to make snow, Squaw Valley need to become an all-season resort to prepare for a less profitable future in its ski business. While making snow helps the low snow problem, it has to be cold enough outside to work .
There is broad potential for Squaw Valley to expand its business to other recreational activities. The resort is situated among several beautiful national forests and is a short drive away from Lake Tahoe and a slightly farther jaunt to the stunning northern end of Yosemite National Park. The mountains, clean air, and proximity to serene hiking trails make it highly suitable for a variety of recreational activities. Mountain biking, trail running, hiking, meditation retreats, bird watching, and business conferences and retreats are all logical uses of this geography and so are suitable expansion options for Squaw Valley Resort.
A second important feature of these potential expansion areas is that they require fairly low level of capital investment. If for instance the company takes on hiking and trail running, Squaw Valley could establish itself as a luxury destination for spring through fall outdoor recreation by developing strategic partnerships with leading running brands like Salomon and Brooks alongside sponsored influencers and athletes who will provide high visibility through social media for the resort as a key destination for the sport. Investments in marketing for an off-season business will increase overall brand awareness for the resort.
Trails in national parks are maintained by the forest service, so the hotel’s role would be to attract guests and then to provide pampering and support to runners and hikers. The hotel could hire guides and put together resources such as maps, rides, and trail friendly picnic lunches and snacks to minimize the logistical requirements for guests who plan to get outside.
Currently Squaw Valley resort is making several efforts to improve its business model. First and foremost, the resort is moving toward renewable sources of energy and is buying the most energy efficient snow making equipment available. These are good business practices, however they fail to address the root cause, which is that the environment is changing so the ski business will be less profitable in the future. Secondly, Squaw Valley is hosting some other spring and summer events to include Ironman Races . This is a very strong move, and it links nicely into the outdoor sport expansion that I recommended above. The only problem is that holding a race is a one-time event, and does not result in a steady stream of business.
Ski resorts like Squaw Valley will see the effects of climate change before many other types of businesses are confronted with profit losses associated with warming temperatures. In order to prepare for a less snowy future, the resort must develop an all-season business model that will be sustainable in the context of changing weather patterns. The unfortunate truth is that skiing alone may not provide a sufficient source of revenue for ski resorts to remain profitable in the future as we currently understand it.
 John Branch, “As Snow Fades, California Ski Resorts Are Left High and Very Dry,” New York Times, November 23, 2014, [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/sports/skiing/as-snow-fades-california-ski-resorts-face-a-brown-future.html?_r=0#], accessed November 2016.
 Evelyn Spence, “Fake Snow, Real Money: The High-Tech Fight to Save California Skiing,” Bloomberg News, March 6, 2015, [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-03-06/fake-snow-real-money-the-high-tech-fight-to-save-california-skiing], accessed November 2016.
 Squaw Valley, “Environmental Stewardship,” http://squawalpine.com/about-us/environmental-stewardship, accessed November 2016.
 Featured Image by Max Whittaker for The New York Times, “As Snow Fades, California Ski Resorts Are Left High and Very Dry,” New York Times, November 23, 2014, [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/sports/skiing/as-snow-fades-california-ski-resorts-face-a-brown-future.html?_r=0#], accessed November 2016.