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Study: Warming Winters Give Ski Areas Less Time to Make Snow

Courtesy of Loon Mountain

A new study from Plymouth State University and the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest says New Hampshire ski areas will have fewer days to make snow each winter as the climate warms.

Co-author Geoff Wilson of the Cary Institute says they already knew the White Mountains were warming faster during the winter than at other times of the year.

For this study, he says they worked with nearby Loon Mountain Resort to see how warming is affecting ski areas.

“Snowmaking opportunity windows are getting smaller over time, that was clear,” Wilson says, “and that’s particularly true before Christmas.”

Credit Geoff Wilson et al
A chart from the Hubbard Brook study shows the decrease in snowmaking opportunities between 2002 and 2014.

The study found that in the past 50 years, the first three weeks of December warmed 2.5 degrees Celcius.

That reduced snowmaking days by at least 20 or 30 percent, at a key time of year.

During the rest of the snowmaking season, the warming was a little lower at 1.5 degrees.

But for ski areas that have equipment that needs colder temperatures to operate, the loss of snowmaking days was still 75 to 90 percent.

Still, Wilson says it’s not all bad news for ski areas, like Loon Mountain, that can afford to invest in bigger water supplies and more efficient equipment.

Even as winters warm, he says, Loon has been able to make more snow in less time – all with less energy.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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