The threat posed by global warming on the ski industry can already be seen across North America, and continues to get worse. Winters are getting shorter, and the snow pack is getting thinner and thinner. As temperatures rise, Ski Mountains at lower elevations are seeing rain on more days when in the past they saw snow. Resorts have historically manufactured snow during bad winters, but can’t make the snow they need if temperatures are too high. And, to make conditions even worse, global warming has intensified droughts, making less water available for the creation of artificial snow. A climatologist recently predicted that by 2039, 50% of the ski resorts in New England would have to shut down. Should global warming continue at its current pace, only mountains reaching the highest elevations, such as those in the Rocky Mountains or the European Alps, will have access to viable skiing. 
Skiers, snowboarders, and resort owners aren’t the only ones that suffer in bad winters. A recent study argues that the snow-sports industry more broadly adds $12.2B to the U.S. economy every year.  Small mountain towns depend on winter tourism to keep locals employed and to contribute to their tax base. In California, the small town of Mammoth Lakes suffered such a downturn during successive droughts that it was forced to declare bankruptcy. 
While the planet has yet to turn things around, business leaders in the ski industry refuse to let shorter winters hurt their bottom line. The CEO of Vail Resorts, Robert A. Katz, has a simple strategy when it comes to threat of climate change: Make your business about much more than snowfall. 
Vail Resorts has invested aggressively in “weather proofing” to ensure they can attract visitors no matter the weather. Vail, and the 14 resorts it owns around the world, have built more golf courses, mountain bike trails, water slides and other warm weather activities to attract outdoor enthusiasts all year round. Some mountains have gone even further – developing approaches to skiing that don’t need any snow at all. The Midlothian Snowsports Center outside of Edinburgh, Scotland offers “dry skiing,” which uses carpet like surfaces to mimic the experience of skiing year round. 
Katz also cites a specific strategy to “own more of the mountain” . Lift passes make up about half of a mountain’s revenue, but by owning more hotels, restaurants, and other attractions, a ski resorts can capture a larger share of wallet from each visitor. 
Vail has deployed other tactics to secure its financial position. Vail, and other mountains, have aggressively expanded their sale of season passes before the season starts. Although revenue per skier might be lower through season passes, it acts as a hedge against a bad season. Even if they experience a year of bad snowfall, season pass revenue, which is collected before the winter begins, can cover a lot of fixed expenses. Vail has also expanded aggressively to increase market share and diversify its risk: a good year in Canada may make up for a bad year in Utah. 
The Ski Industry has recognized its own contributions to climate change. Ski resorts across North America have taken proactive steps to lower their carbon footprint. Many mountains have created management positions to focus on sustainability, and resorts like Vail have curbed their energy use, installed solar panels and increased their recycling programs. Resorts are also working to raise awareness about climate change and to lobby for more environmental protection. Organizations like Protect Our Winters, The Mountain Pact and The National Resource Defense Council are all examples of organizations that have formed to create coalitions of mountain towns, resorts, winter athletes and climate scientists. 
If efforts to fight the effects of global warming don’t succeed, winter sports may become a thing of the past. Pessimists predict that skiing in the future will be limited to places like the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, which boasts a 400 meter indoor ski slope in the middle of the desert, filled with artificial snow. The efforts of Vail resorts and Robert Katz may help mountains stay open in the short term, but, in the longer term, we must find ways to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions so that winter doesn’t become a season of the past. 
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