This page is optimized for a taller screen. Please rotate your device or increase the size of your browser window.

How Will Climate Change Affect the Winter Recreation Industry?


  • The future effects of climate change on winter recreation are unknown.
  • Using a variety of models, Abt estimated the economic impact.
  • The winter recreation industry could lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Challenge

Climate change, in particular global warming, inevitably will have an impact on winter recreation. But the effects will differ from one vacation destination to another. The challenge is to understand the effects on activities such as skiing and snowmobiling and how to mitigate them.

The Approach

Abt developed a physically based water and energy balance model to simulate natural snow accumulation at 247 winter recreation locations. Abt combined the model with projections of snowmaking conditions to determine the lengths of various sports season under baseline and estimated future climates. Abt used data from five climate models and two emissions scenarios. To calculate the economic impact, we combined projected season lengths with baseline estimates of winter recreation activity, entrance fee information and potential changes in population.

The Results

Abt projected national winter recreation impacts for 10 climate scenarios. The changes in winter recreation season lengths varied by location, activity and climate. Virtually all locations would see reductions in winter season lengths, exceeding 50 percent by 2050 and 80 percent in 2090. The changes could result in tens of millions of foregone visits annually by 2050 and losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. Limiting global greenhouse-gas emissions could reduce the harm to the industry.