folder Filed in Capitalism, Culture, Travel
Skiing on Thin Ice
On Economic and Climate Change Factors Threatening the Future of Winter Sports
Robert Huttinger

The ski industry, which has long brought joy to winter enthusiasts and provided a boost to mountain region tourism, now faces significant challenges due to economic and climate change. The rising cost of ski resort operations are a major factor affecting the ski industry. These costs include utilities, snowmaking, ski patrol services, and constant maintenance and upgrades to lifts and other infrastructure.

These factors make it difficult for ski resorts to turn a profit. In addition, there has been a decrease in the number of young people participating in skiing and snowboarding, as well as an aging baby boomer generation (who have traditionally made up a large portion of the ski industry’s customer base), leading to a decline in overall ski resort visitation.

Climate change is also taking a toll on the ski industry. Warmer winter temperatures and less predictable snowfall patterns have caused shortened ski seasons and lower snowpack levels at many resorts. This not only reduces the amount of time that resorts can operate, but it also makes it more difficult and expensive to maintain groomed slopes and keep ski lifts running.

The combination of economic and climate-related challenges has resulted in the closure of some ski resorts, with many more struggling to stay open. The future of the ski industry looks uncertain, and it is likely that we will see more consolidation and closures in the coming years.

A solution to these challenges is the development of artificial snowmaking and snow management technologies. However, these come with their own environmental and economic costs and it is uncertain if they will fully compensate for the impacts of climate change on the ski industry.

As the ski industry struggles with economic and climate change challenges, other countries that may seem unlikely to meet the demand for skiing are attempting to join the industry. In a strange move, these countries have decided to add skiing to their agendas. Despite facing their own unique challenges, such as a lack of mountains or a desert climate, they hope to capitalize on the global demand for winter sports and establish themselves as unusual and exotic ski destinations.

Skiing with the Sheiks

Take for instance Saudi Arabia: It may seem unlikely that skiing could thrive in Saudi Arabia, with its desert climate and lack of mountains. Nevertheless, the Saudi Arabian government has been working to develop the country’s ski industry as part of its plan to diversify the economy and increase tourism, known as Vision 2030.

A key project in this effort is the Snow City indoor ski resort in Riyadh. The resort, which opened in 2018, offers a 250-meter slope with a 50-meter vertical drop and amenities such as ski and snowboard rentals, a ski school, and a café. It uses advanced snowmaking technology to maintain a consistent snow cover throughout the year, even in the desert heat.

Saudi Arabia has also announced plans to build other ski resorts in the country, including a large-scale resort in the Asir region with multiple ski runs and other winter sports facilities. These projects aim to promote Saudi Arabia as a winter sports destination and attract tourists seeking unique and exotic ski locations.

The development of skiing in Saudi Arabia has sparked controversy. Some have raised concerns about the environmental impact of large-scale ski resort development in a desert region and the potential for these projects to displace local communities. There have also been questions about the feasibility of building and operating ski resorts in a region with such limited natural snowfall.

The Saudi Arabian government remains committed to the development of the country’s ski industry and is reportedly planning to host international ski events in the future. It remains to be seen how successful these efforts will be, but it is clear that Saudi Arabia is trying to tap into the global demand for skiing and winter sports and establish itself as an unusual and exotic destination for these activities.

While efforts to adapt and mitigate these impacts may help preserve some aspect of the industry, it is likely that we are in for significant changes and disruptions in the winter season’s to come.

climate change economy sports