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Winter Sports In A Warming World

With global temperatures rising, the world of winter sports is getting hit hard, according to this expose from AlterNet, which discusses how the world of winter recreation is affected and how it is coping.In 2006, snowmobile manufacturer Polaris had 40 percent lower sales in the U.S. than in 2005, and the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association reported that for the fiscal year ending last march, total sales were down 12 percent in the U.S. from the previous year and well over 50 percent from 1997. But sales are up two percent in Canada and have enjoyed double-digit growth in Russia for six years running. Many snowmobile manufacturers also benefit from the fact that they make ATVs.

The skiing industry is hurting, too. In New Hampshire, where winters warmed 3.8 degrees Farenheit in the 20th century, there were 65 downhill ski areas across the state in the 1970s. Twenty remain. Vermont slopes have suffered, too, and to cope, some resorts have diversified from skiing, such as Bromley Mountain, which is now known as “Vermont’s sun and fun park,” and, during warmer months, offers an alpine slide, miniature golf, climbing wall and bumper boats. It also attracts people with various shows, such as bluegrass concerts and even ventriloquists, and it’s working. Skiing attendance is at 120,000 annually, but an additional 55,000 to 70,000 come during warmer weather.

Out West, there are dire projections for the ski areas, including one for the Rocky Mountain West that showed a 70 percent snowpack loss by 2050. By 2085, according to a Colorado College report, the country could lose 82 percent of its snowpack-grim news for a region whose skier visits had already dropped 78 percent by 2005. One study by Aspen’s town government said that eventually, Aspen’s climate will resemble that of Amarillo, Texas. Last year, Aspen Skiing Company announced that its entire ad campaign will focus on global warming.

Since 2000, 184 ski areas around the country adopted the Environmental Charter to raise awareness of global warming on winter sports and call for greenhouse gas reductions. In addition, the National Ski Areas Association has launched a “Keep Winter Cool” campaign with the slogan, “Stop Global Warming or the Snowman Gets It.” Aspen itself has introduced numerous environmental reforms, as have other resorts, such as Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts which installed a wind turbine to become the first resort that produces its own electricity.

Things aren’t much better in Europe, either, where the European Environmental Agency says in a report that 75 percent of the Swiss Alps’ glaciers will be gone by 2050. The fallout has also affected clothing industries that cater to winter sports. Patagonia is now getting into the surf market and is selling green surfboards and wetsuits.

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