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US skiing industry praying for snow

China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-15 14:34

Low precipitation throughout the west triggered one of the worst Decembers

DENVER - Across America's west, prayers for snowfall are being offered to the skies as the winter season has offered little relief to drought stricken areas thus far.

"Draw a line from eastern Washington down to Colorado - everything north is OK; everything south is in danger," said National Weather Service meteorologist Russell Danielson.

The enormous "danger zone" includes seven large western states - California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada - and the "four-corner" states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

Danielson said that these areas are seeing up to an 80 percent reduction in snowfall so far this season, spelling a disastrous upcoming fire season unless more snowpack occurs.

"This Is Literally the West's Worst Winter in 60 years," a headline in influential Outside Magazine read last week, pointing to the lack of snow hurting America's $ 5.6 billion ski industry.

In the 2016-2017 season, Colorado ski resorts saw 100,000 fewer visitors than the previous year and an overall 2.8 percent annual decline in North American ski areas, according to Colorado Ski Country magazine.

"Much of western Colorado is dependent on the ski industry economy, so no snow means no income," said Carbondale Airbnb host Glenn Nemhauser.

While last season heavy December snows pushed visitor totals upward, this year, record low precipitation throughout the west triggered one of the worst Decembers in skiing history.

Without snow, seasonal ski guests are reluctant to make room reservations.

"The lack of snow also affects many, many small businesses and thousands of people in this part of the country," Nemhauser said. "Our bookings were dead in December."

Both the NWS and Colorado's ski resorts are hoping for heavy snowfall soon - that occurs regularly in the region at the end of January and early February.

"We're not banking on it ... and we definitely have to accommodate for the lack of snow," said Liz Rovira, a public relations spokesperson for Aspen Skiing Company.

The US ski industry employs about 60,000, mostly seasonal workers, with mountainous Colorado and its 34 resorts leading the nation, according to US Department of Labor statistics.

The dry weather has put extra pressure on the marketing arms of Colorado's ski resorts to find creative ways to bring skiers to the slopes, despite the conditions.

Last month, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Snowmass Mountain advertised a one-day "throw-back" promotion offering lift tickets for $6.50 - the actual ticket price in 1967.

Climate scientists are quick to point to global warming as the culprit of the dry weather, while conservatives point to record cold temperatures in the East as proof global warming is overrated.

A report released Thursday by World Weather Attribution said the brutal two-week East Coast cold snap wasn't global warming, but a natural occurring anomaly.

The group of international scientists said climate change has made such cold spells less common and less intense.


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