Killington Ski Resort

Killington Ski Resort getting pummeled by climate change

When the average individual thinks of climate change or global warming, they think simply of rising temperatures. This rise of temperatures, however, due to a rise of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, leads to other climactic events like a rise of temperatures and evaporation within oceans, and more profound El Nino effects. A combination of many of these can wreak havoc upon industries.


One particular industry that has been negatively affected is the Winter Sports Tourism industry, mostly dominated by skiing and snowboarding. The Killington Ski resort is one example of a company facing the consequences. It was reported in 2012 that only 34 of its 155 ski trails were open, and that figure later decreased to 24 of its 155 (1). Furthermore, increased dryness destroyed a base lodge at the resort in 2013.


Much of the damage caused at Killington through global warming has been ice cap melting yielding dangerously low snow level for skiiers and snowboarders, but also el nino effects which lead to unpredictability and therefore trouble with marketing and staffing during winter peak seasons. This past year, Killington expected actually a lower amount of snow activity but ended up opening more paths yet were not staffed appropriately. At the same time, resorts on the west coast also experienced a massive increase of snow activity which led to increased traffic to places like Tahoe and Vail, but lack of resources to support some of this traffic (2). Alpine ski resorts in general experienced the ‘worst ski Christmas in decades.’  A study from 2008 from the University of Maryland ballparked that Colorado (largest ski-based economy in the US) would lose $375 million in revenue and 4,500 jobs by 2017 due to skier attrition from lack of snow. (3)


Measures that Killington ski resort has taken has been internal measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions internally and supporting projects in Vermont to reduce emissions across the state, hoping that a country-wide support effort will follow and future effects will be mitigated. It is difficult to see the effects of this short term and rally community support around such a broad idea, but the inspiration largely comes from the Mountain Pact being done by large resorts like Vail and Park City who have worked with the Obama administration to block expanded coal leasing on Department of Interior land in order to keep emissions in check, and this project has been successful (4).


In order to mitigate more short term effects, resorts are utilizing other measures to continue to attract winter sports enthusiasts to their resorts. They are increasing the amount of available options for those who are unable to ski or snowboard by offering other amenities at their resorts and beginning to overinvest into ‘fake snow’ to open more trails at all times. This however has significantly decreased margins and revenue for the ski resort as the costs of this production and the lower satisfaction has made utilization of their slopes very slow.


In my mind, I believe Killington needs to focus on building revenue in the slopes and trails that it cannot sustain with current global warming trends. The fact of the matter is that there will still be trails open and available for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, but the resort must find ways to utilize the otherwise empty inventory in innovative ways. Increasing traffic via corporate or group retreats, finding ways to utilize these trails for offseason hiking, or finding better and higher quality ways to create fake snow to allow winter activities on these slows are some small ideas to do this.

Words: 603









Seeds of Success



Student comments on Killington Ski Resort

  1. I completely agree with the need to maximize the empty inventory. Perhaps this can extend to other seasons, making a larger impact in the fall with more “leaf-peeping” opportunities in otherwise off-peak seasons. Another consideration may be to partner with winter sports enthusiasts and other famous individuals who visit their resort to educate the public on sustainability efforts that they themselves can participate in.

  2. Sujay! Thanks for this great post!
    I was curious about your approach since I wrote about the same industry but focused on the West Coast of the U.S. I totally agree with you. It is impressive the numbers that the Winter Sports industry brings to the economy and I was particularly impressed by the amount of “potential” jobs that can be lost due to lack of snow. Nevertheless, one particular thing that the industry is currently doing to combat that consequence is investing in its off-season activities. In fact, Killington spent 3.5 million dollars to attract people to its off-season attractions and they actually have experienced a 130% increase in customer demand from its summer operations (1). Hopefully a stronger summer season can alleviate the negative effect a weaker winter season has on the economy. However, I also believe ski resorts cannot stop there and need to invest further in order to reduce the footprint of their operations on the environment. One way of doing that can be using the additional revenues from the off-season attractions to subsidize eco-friendly initiatives; upgraded infrastructure, efficient equipment, awareness campaigns to name a few. I encourage you to read the attached article, you will enjoy it!


  3. Sujay, I think all Ski Resorts are in a very difficult position today, as climate changes only tend to get worse and none of the Resorts have found out a solution to overcome global warming effects. I agree with all short-term initiatives you mentioned, such as offering other amenities at the resort and creating new revenue streams in off-peak season, however, in my opinion Resorts should be taking a more long-term approach.
    After walking through several articles about this topic, it becomes clear that there are private entities (mostly resorts and winter sports-related companies) trying to come up with their own solutions, but no consolidated, integrated approach from governments, which are essential for fighting a major issue such as global warming. Without authority´s involvement and additional incentives, it´s very hard for a medium-size resort such as Killington Ski Resort to overcome rising temperatures alone.
    My suggestion here, then, would be:
    (1) for resorts (including Killington) to associate between themselves and decide how they are going to address the lack of government involvement
    (2) pressure authorities to take a more active role, by either lobbying or leveraging on public press
    (3) come up with a plan for both resorts and companies to minimize their greenhouse emissions
    (4) invest in R&D to develop higher quality “fake snow” to be used across resorts, as many Canadian resorts have been doing recently[i]
    Obviously these recommendations need to be further developed into an action plan, but I really think that without a more active role from government, the role ski industry will be in danger.


  4. I am very interested in the consequences that climate change has on this specific business since ski resorts are one of the very first business to see the damages caused by human beings’ act of destroying our globe. This issue for sure does not go unnoticed since there are already many posts in the same challenge addressing this business under climate change.

    I agree with you Sujay that short term actions for these businesses are to be creative in the way they utilize their unused inventory and be really conservative when forecasting weather condition and thus business demand. Hiring part time staffs during ski season can be another useful response in order to keep the company responsive to immediate climate changes.

    In the long run, it is crucial that these business owners group together to raise their concerns. Again, they are one of the first to see how climate change is happening. Many of us don’t. We need more of these voices to motivate government and NGOs to take actions and consumers to put pressures on businesses to fix what’s wrong.

  5. Thank you for the insightful read, Sujay!

    Having grown up in New Hampshire (in close proximity to Killington), I have personally witnessed diminishing rates of snow at multiple resorts in the area. I completely agree with idea of re-purposing ski resorts to optimize revenue, but my concern is that without a long-term solution, these ski resorts will have to fundamentally change their business model to that of a hotel similar to the Von Trapp family lodge or Mount Washington Hotel. Unfortunately, the public already associates Killington with being a ski resort, so making the transition would be a drastic re-positioning.

    In terms of a longer term solution, I agree with “Maniglass’s” post above. There is only so much one small ski resort such as Killington can do on its own. Banding together with competitors to create a unified voice would bring more attention and weight to the issue; however, the key challenge will be to convince the resorts who have benefited from climate change to join the fight. Having received feet upon feet of powdery snow, will Vail, Tahoe, and the other West Coast players voice their concerns?

  6. The ski industry really is a at a crossroads these days as a result of the negative side effects of global warming. As a big skier myself, it’s very disconcerting to think that my children or grandchildren very possibly will not have the opportunity to ski a big powder day out west. Many of the possible solutions for Killington and other mountain resorts have been highlight above — namely to band together to try and force action in Washington. Unfortunately, we might already be at a place where any incremental regulatory action might not be able to save some of these mountains. In terms of operating model changes, the mountain definitely needs to consider more artificial snow machines and additional off-season activities to stop the bleeding.

Leave a comment