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Report: Warming a threat to skiing and Colorado’s economy

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily fileThe snowpack at Colorado ski resorts will be impacted greatly if climate change isn't curtailed, predicted a new report from the University of Maryland.
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. ” If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curtailed, climate change will reduce the snowpack in Eagle County ” home to the ski resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek ” by 57 percent by 2085, according to a new report.

“The state’s most popular tourist activity is at risk from climate change,” said the latest report to address the impact of climate change on skiing. It was published Wednesday by the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland in College Park.

The report, “Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Colorado,” does not paint a pretty picture for skiing ” and the attendant industry of real estate ” over the next century.



Along with the outlook for Eagle County, the report also spelled out the projected loss of snowpack by 2085 for Telluride in southwest Colorado (82 percent), Winter Park on the Front Range (54 percent) and Breckenridge and Copper Mountain in Summit County (50 percent).

The “snow season” could become 30 days shorter and the snowline could rise by 328 to 1,312 feet if emissions continue at the current rate, the study said. Also, because of a projected global temperature increase, less precipitation will fall as snow.



“Given all of these factors, skiing in Colorado will become less reliable and the industry as a whole will take a loss as the effects of climate change become more tangible,” according to the report.

An earlier spring and more rain could also mean more mudslides and avalanches, the report said.

A 1 percent decrease in the number of visitors to Colorado’s ski resorts could result in a total economic loss of over $375 million by 2017 and over 4,500 lost jobs, the report said.

And real estate could also be affected, the report said.

“The profitability of the real estate sector may decrease alongside reduced opportunities for skiing and winter recreation in Colorado,” the report said.

The study goes beyond skiing to look at effects on forests, water and wildlife.

“Forests are probably the single most threatened natural resource, as foreign and native pests and diseases as well as forest fires will all thrive under a warmer climate,” the report said.

The mountain pine beetle ” which has already killed a huge number of trees in Eagle County and is expected to infect as many as 90 percent of lodgepole pines in parts of Vail ” benefits from an earlier spring and a longer autumn, the report noted.

Temperature changes could also threaten the diversity of plants and animals that live in Colorado’s unique climate zones, according to the report.

Bears might migrate farther north, while trout populations may decline, the report said.

Large animals such as deer and moose may benefit from the warmer temperatures, though, it added.

estoner@vaildaily.com


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