The 2-degree difference: Seasonal survival of ski resorts

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Skiing is one of the staples of a New England winter and an important part of many local economies. But with warming winters and a changing climate, many ski resorts are having to adapt and expand their year-round operations. 

With warming temperatures, winters in the Northeast are becoming shorter, which in turn can mean less snowfall. Vermont’s increase in temperatures for the winter season is almost twice as large compared to the summer season. According to Climate Central data out of Burlington, average winter temperatures have gone up about .9 degrees per decade. This can lead to generally more precipitation falling as rain than snowfall. In Vermont, the number of days in the year with over an inch of snowfall decreased from about 125 in the early 1960s to under 100 in the 2010s.

At Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, Vermont, you can see how resorts are adapting to these changes. “We have definitely seen changes to extreme weather,” said Public Relations Director for Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Mike Chait.

“We have added about $5 million in snowmaking improvements, wrapping up about four years ago with a water intake pipeline which runs for snowmaking,” said Chait. 

With ski season usually beginning in November or December and ending in April or May, this leaves the summer and fall seasons for potential additional income for resorts. “We realized that there was a large market for the summertime because it’s so beautiful in the summer. Come for the winter, stay for the summer” said Chait. 

Smugglers’ Notch offers camps, guided hikes, walks, and mountain biking, and a 26,000 square foot indoor family recreation complex.

Ski resorts are also improving their sustainability practices. Smugglers’ Notch has its own environmental initiatives like wildlife and habitat protection, energy efficiency, recycling programs, and water quality and conservation programs. 

“We work very closely with the state of Vermont. We won’t develop anything without working alongside state representatives and making sure that we are making sound decisions that won’t have too much of a negative impact on the mountain” said Chait. 

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