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Alpental, WA — Lack of Snow Causes Record Economic Losses for Washington Ski Resorts

May 11, 2005

Rising temperatures over the last 50 years have reduced average winter snow accumulation by more than half in Washington and Oregon. Last winter Washington resorts lost as much as $4 million a week, costing 3,500 resort workers their jobs. By mid-March, all but two of Washington's resorts had closed for the season.

Washington is not alone in feeling the harmful economic impact of global warming. Ski seasons are growing shorter worldwide and ski runs on lower elevations frequently never open. In recent years, even 15% of Switzerland's resorts have been forced to make artificial snow.

The ski industry is fighting back. A coalition of 70 major resorts in 20 states have formed the Keep Winter Cool Campaign that supports the passage of the Climate Stewardship Act, a bill before Congress which works to reduce greenhouse gases from a large variety of industries. The resorts are thinking locally, too, using wind energy to generate the electricity they need to run their lifts and light their lodges.

Much more than skiing is at stake. Thanks to global warming, snow accumulation is declining across most of the United States, and it melts faster than ever before. Historically, heavy winter snowfall melted gradually, well into the summer months, keeping rivers and reservoirs full and providing thirsty cities and farms with water. Less snow means longer summer droughts, threatening countless thousands of acres of farmland, contributing to huge summer wildfires and pushing native plant and animal species toward extinction.