Snow equals money for the U.S., according to a Protect Our Winters (POW) study released on Friday that also quantifies how climate change is an imminent threat on the economy.
A 69-page report reveals that people who participated in winter sports during the 2015-2016 season generated $20.3 billion. The findings come just after a federal Bureau of Economic Analysis measured the outdoor industry as 2 percent ($373.7 billion) of the entire 2016 U.S. Gross Domestic Product, heftier than oil and gas extraction (1.4 percent) and agriculture (1 percent).
The new data is overwhelming and industry leaders are strategizing to leverage the recognized economic values when approaching lawmakers in the fight against global warming.
“We need voters and elected officials to understand the true impact of what we’re fighting for, and our industry being recognized as a contributor to GDP is a huge step in that direction,” said Samantha Killgore, POW’s communications and marketing manager.
Even though the number of ski areas has fallen from 700 in the 1980s to 460 today, the report shows that participation in winter sports has continually increased by 4 million between 2007 and 2016. More than 23.5 million Americans skied, snowboarded, snowmobiled during the season, according to the report.
But as weather becomes less and less predictable, ski areas will be forced to close if they don’t adapt, thus resulting in a decrease in consumer spending in the industry. POW found that the increased skier participation levels in high snow years added an extra $692.9 million and 11,800 jobs. In low snow years, reduced participation decreased value by more than $1 billion and cost 17,400 jobs, compared to an average season.
“Skiers and snowboarders are seeing climate change happen right before our eyes in the mountains as winter seasons shorten and snow lines rise,” said Jeremy Jones, professional snowboarder and POW founder.
“While scientific data reinforces what we are witnessing in the mountains, this study confirms what we are experiencing in our towns, where we watch low snow years shut down businesses, as friends and neighbors lose their jobs. Now is the time for athletes, snow lovers and folks who care about American jobs to come together to demand that our politicians take climate action on a national and global level.”
In compiling data, POW relied on the Impact Analysis for Planning model (IMPLAN) – an economic input-output model designed to determine national and regional impacts – to weigh the overall size of the U.S. ski (downhill ski and snowboard) and snowmobile industries, and to provide estimates of state-level economic contributions. The report breaks down profits generated on the mountains as well as in the surrounding communities at hotels ($1.1 billion), full-service restaurants ($779 million) and gas stations ($107 million).
“Our report looks at the impact that the changes in climate are having on all components of the economy of our industry,” Killgore said. We’re not talking polar bears here, we’re talking American jobs.”
The sum of POW’s report is that snowfall is diminishing and the economic impact is dire.
The BEA report as well as the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 economy report back up just how much muscle recreation has, from wintersports to its supporting activities. The OIA scales the entire outdoor recreation at $887 billion, POW’s numbers account for travel expenses and spending on trips within 50 miles from home. The recently released BEA report, which cites a smaller impact of $373.7 billion, did not include revenue from apparel and equipment manufactured overseas. It did include the revenue of goods sold at retail. Regardless, it’s a huge step that the highest form of government recognizes the industry’s power.
So those are the numbers, but how can you use knowledge as power?
POW’s 7 ways to make a difference in climate change
1. Identify where you can exert influence, as an individual or business through op-eds or letters to the editor, speaking engagements and meetings with elected officials. Registration for OIA’s Capitol Summit this April can be found here.
2. Tell your legislators and state and local government officials that climate change is an important issue and ask what they’re doing to address it. Find an example of what to send through OIA’s online form here.
3. Get educated by reading climateprogress.org, grist.org and the climate and energy reporting at vox.com; books on the subject include Porter Fox’s DEEP, Bill McKibben’s Eaarth and Jeff Goodell’s The Water Will Come.
4. Speak about the historical controversy around climate change among friends, family and co-workers. Part of spreading the word about what’s going on includes talking to those closest to you and confronting any challenges with the facts you’ve learned.
5. Support resorts committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as those participating in the NSAA Climate Challenge – such as Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Snowboard in Utah – and ask resorts that aren’t what’s preventing them from joining. See the full list of climate challengers here.
6. Walk the talk by carpooling and using public transit options, buying an efficient vehicle; downsizing and joining POW or other nonprofits dedicated to solving the climate crisis.
7. Be a citizen scientist and help real scientists track changes in precipitation by measuring with your own. For less than $35, you can get your own kit of a rain gauge, ruler and small plywood snowboard. Input the data you collect through the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network.
Read the full POW report here.