How Climate Change Has Impacted The Tourism Sector in New Hampshire Ski Regions During Winter

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7 pages /

3235 words

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7 pages /

3235 words

Downloads: 43

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. New Hampshire Climate Action Plan Background
    The Climate Action Plan’s Economic Opportunities
    Climate Change Impact on New Hampshire Winter Tourism
    Preparing for Climate Change in New Hampshire Ski Areas
    Modeling Climate Change in Ski Areas
    Vulnerability and Viability of the Winter Tourism Economy
  4. Conclusion


In this research paper, I will delve into the goals of the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan and whether or not they will be enough to help lessen the impacts of climate change on the winter tourism sector of New Hampshire ski regions. I use research conducted by climatologists to analyze the potential impacts of climate change on winter ski areas, as well as the economic impacts, on winter tourism in relation to the Climate Action Plan.

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Climate change is a global and local crisis and if immediate action isn’t taken, the damages may be irreversible. In the northeast region of the United States, and more specifically in New Hampshire, winter tourism is a major part of the state’s revenue, and with the publication of the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan back in 2009, the state is hoping to combat climate change while remaining economically sound. “New Hampshire set an ambitious goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 while also spurring economic development, creating jobs, enhancing energy security, and preserving the quality of life for New Hampshire residents,” (Wake, et al., 2012).

Due to the fact that winter tourism is a prominent factor in New Hampshire’s revenue, and the impending threat of climate change potentially creating irreversible damages to these ski resorts, will the goals of the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan be enough to help lessen the impacts of climate change to these winter ski areas? The remainder of of this paper will outline the goals of the Climate Action Plan, the impact of climate change on New Hampshire ski areas and its effect on New Hampshire’s economy.

New Hampshire Climate Action Plan Background

The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan, which was published in 2009, proposes a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 while maintaining New Hampshire’s economic feasibility (Wake et al., 2012). The plan, which was created by leaders in the state’s business community, government members, non-profit organizations, and academics (otherwise known as the Climate Action Plan’s “task force”), emphasizes the need to “reduce emissions from transportation, electric generation, buildings and ecosystems while further developing the economy,” (Wake et al., 2012). The Climate Action Plan, is also related to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan due to New Hampshire’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). In the Climate Action Plan, the task force recommends that the state should continue to remain involved in RGGI and work to strengthen the program. In regards to the Clean Power Plan, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is exploring ways in which the state participation in RGGI can help satisfy the requirements of the Clean Power Plan (Burack, personal communication, 2016).

The task force behind the Climate Action Plan acknowledges the fact that New Hampshire needs to significantly cut emissions and begin to adapt to a rapidly changing climate (Skoglund, personal communication, 2016). Cameron Wake (personal communication, 2016), explained “The state is currently in the initial steps of a really long journey and not many companies are far along regarding the impacts of climate change,” however the goals and recommendations of the Climate Action Plan are not linked to any state statutes, meaning that there is not a requirement that any state entity advance the plan (Skoglund, personal communication, 2016). However, as a result of the very inclusive and comprehensive way the plan was created, there have been multiple stakeholder groups, New Hampshire legislators, and state agencies that are willingly moving forward with many of the Climate Action Plan’s recommendations, as well as taking part in additional efforts that were inspired by the plan (Skoglund, personal communication, 2016). The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan released its last benchmark report in 2012 and it is important to take notice that the state is beginning to show steady signs of progression towards the goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan.

The Climate Action Plan’s Economic Opportunities

Of course, there are costs that come along with climate change policies but according to the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan (2009) summary, an enormous part of these costs will only be used in the beginning stages of the Climate Action Plan). The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (2009) states that as time goes on, these costs will diminish and the policies implemented will create net economic benefits. The Climate Plan briefly outlines 10 strategies for reducing emissions while remaining economically feasible. The 10 strategies are as follows:

“1. Maximize energy efficiency in buildings, 2. Increase renewable and low-CO2-emitting resources in a long-term sustainable manner, 3. Support regional and national actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 4. Reduce vehicle emissions through state actions, 5. Encourage appropriate land use patterns that reduce vehicle-miles traveled, 6. Reduce vehicle-miles traveled through an integrated multi-modal transportation system, 7. Protect natural resources (land, water, and wildlife) to maintain the amount of carbon fixed or sequestered, 8. Lead by example in government operations, 9. Plan for how to address existing and potential climate change impacts, 10. Develop an integrated education, outreach and workforce training program,” (2009).

In order to gain the net economic benefits of the Climate Action Plan, New Hampshire must prioritize the low-costing greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies above any other policies and the state must view these costs as long-term energy-reducing investments (“Overview of New Hampshire Climate Action Plan”, 2009). The types of benefits that greenhouse gas emissions reductions result in are considered ancillary benefits, which are localized benefits that are brought on by regional abatement, much like the Climate Action Plan is intending on doing within the New Hampshire ski areas.

Climate Change Impact on New Hampshire Winter Tourism

Winter tourism is a major portion of New Hampshire’s state revenue and climate change can have a huge impact on that very important sector of the state’s economy. The ski industry in New Hampshire is extremely reliant on long, active winter weather conditions and any sort of change to these weather patterns can completely destroy ski area operations (Beaudin & Huang, 2014). Winter tourism and outdoor winter recreation is a crucial economic factor for New Hampshire’s northern counties and during the winter quarter (December through March) “almost 40 percent of our state’s total visitor spending goes to North Country. Almost 80 percent of that is spent on snow – and cold dependent outdoor recreation: skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiling. Winter visitors spend almost 20 percent more per visitor day than the average,” (Wake & Burakowski, 2006).

It is an obvious assumption that a cold winter full of active snowfall will generate more visitors and economic activity than a warm, snowless winter. Cameron Wake and Elizabeth Burakowski (2006) emphasize this in their research by also stating that a warm winter will result in approximately 3,000 fewer jobs (4% of the North Countries winter employment). They also state that “33 percent fewer skiers visit New Hampshire in low versus high snow years” and that Alpine ski ticket sales drop by 15 percent, or about $12 million dollars in warmer winters (2006). Another major revenue loss caused by warm winters is that of the snowmobiling sector. Snowmobiling registration license fees have dropped about 30 percent, which equates to a one-million-dollar loss, and this combined with total ski ticket and ice fishing license registration fees lowering by a combined 14 percent, means that there has been a loss of more than $13 million dollars during warm winters (Wake & Burakowski, 2006).

In addition to these numbers, winter temperatures are also projected to increase another six to ten degrees Fahrenheit at the end of the century if we continue living in a high-emissions framework, which means less snowfall, more winter rain and an increased melting of snowpack, resulting in a reduction of 25 to 50 percent to the typical length of a snow season (Burakowski & Magnusson, 2012). “The energy path we choose today will largely determine whether or not New Hampshire’s climate becomes remarkably similar to that of the U.S. south,” (Wake & Burakowski, 2006) and the Climate Action Plan has the guidelines and goals to prepare and potentially lessen the impacts of climate change to these ski areas

Preparing for Climate Change in New Hampshire Ski Areas

Winter weather and a cold weather climate are key elements in promoting the tourism experience, increasing tourism demand and enjoyment while also creating successful tourism operations. These operations depend largely on water supply, energy costs, insurance costs and the environmental and natural resources are crucial to this winter tourism industry (i.e. glaciers, biodiversity, water levels and snow levels), leaving this typically economically prosperous sector very sensitive and vulnerable to global warming and the impacts of a changing climate, (Dawson & Scott, 2013). “Bicknell and McManus (2006) portray the ski sector as a ‘canary in the coalmine’ suggesting the first signs of a changing climate for any tourism sector is being witnessed directly within the ski industry,” (Dawson & Scott, 2013).

It is not a new concept for the ski industries to be dealing with climate change and its instability in regards to seasonal weather and temperatures. Ski industries have long been adapting to decreased snowfalls and increased temperatures by investing in research and development with the goals of preserving and continuing a productive snow season, and therefore ski season (Scott, 2005). A key investment that ski industries had basically no choice in making was the technological-based adaptation of snow-making machines and this has been one of the most significant factors and investments in making sure that these ski areas remain economically feasible. “A number of other adaptive strategies have become popular including, building ski resorts at higher elevations to account for lower temperatures at altitude, investing in all-season resorts, delivering non-snow-based activities, and providing an après ski atmosphere,” (Dawson & Scott, 2013). Unfortunately, even with the investments in snow-making technology and utilization, ski areas are still in an extremely high risk situation in dealing with the impacts of climate change (Dawson & Scott, 2013) which is why it is important to overemphasize the goals, strategies and implementation of the Climate Action Plan to prepare for and potentially significantly decrease the harmful impacts of climate change to these ski areas.

Modeling Climate Change in Ski Areas

Researchers Jackie Dawson and Daniel Scott examine the impacts of climate change on ski area operations in the Northeast and New Hampshire and they approach it using a case study. Before explaining their research and the methods behind it, they state:

“The implications of climate change have been shown to vary substantially by market segment and geographic region, and will undoubtedly depend on the impacts experienced by competitors. Understanding how the entire ski marketplace may transform, and may be influenced by changes to individual ski areas, can help ski resort managers as well as municipal, state and federal decision-makers establish sustainable development plans and future management strategies,” (2013).

Their research approach is done by examining all 103 ski areas in the Northeast and the methodologies applied in the case study take into account the snowmaking technologies available. Using a generic lapse rate to allow for projections in temperature change in regards to the elevation of each ski area, this allows for the researchers to be able to calculate conclusions about which ski areas are more at risk to climate change than others using different time rates with varying climate change situations.

The annual temperature in the Northeast has increased 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit each decade since 1900, however in the years between 1970 and 2002, the Northeast fell victim to temperatures higher than the average rate and experienced an increase of 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit each decade (Dawson & Scott, 2013). Future climate change scenarios and their baseline period (1961-1990) for this case study was derived from the climate data stated above, which allowed for Dawson and Scott (2013) to derive different climate change scenarios for three different future time periods (2010-39, 2040-69, 2070-99).

There are three very important factors to take into account when projecting climate change impact in this study and they are “season length, probability of being operational during the economically important Christmas - New-Year period, and snowmaking requirements. From these factors an estimation of economic viability is conducted for each of the modeled ski areas,” (Dawson & Scott, 2013). In regards to season length, the impact of climate change varies more for some ski areas than others, based mostly on elevations. The results show that using the baseline period and future projections, ski areas with higher elevations, mostly in New Hampshire and Vermont, will have longer seasons under all the climate change situations tested as opposed to lower elevated ski areas in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine (Dawson & Scott, 2013).

Ski area operations are crucial during the holiday season (December 23rd to January 3rd), because up to 20% of winter tourism occurs during that holiday period (NSAA, 2005). While it still difficult for ski areas to remain 100% operational during that time period because it is early in the ski season, the projections that Dawson and Scott (2013) tested show that they remain more or less constant in each time period, with only a few fluctuations in the 2010-39 period. Lastly, snowmaking requirements are a crucial investment for ski areas to remain open and economically feasible. Dawson and Scott (2013) found that the amount of snow for ski areas to remain this way is going to increase under all tested climate change scenarios for every time period for every one of the 103 ski areas. However, if temperatures continue to rise at the rate that it is, snowmaking technology could be impacted due to it’s 23 degree Fahrenheit minimum temperature at which the machines are operational. If a ski area is in a lower elevated region, these higher temperatures could greatly impact the rate at which snowmaking is utilized.

Vulnerability and Viability of the Winter Tourism Economy

The most crucial factor to consider in the winter tourism economy in regards to it’s vulnerability and viability is the demand-side response of the skiers themselves and their response to snow conditions and the potential closures of particular ski areas (Dawson & Scott, 2013). In Dawson and Scott’s (2013) research, they found that using a climate change analogue and modeling method, the Northeast shows that during the 2040-69 period, there is a decrease of 11-12 percent, using a medium and high emission scenario. This isn’t as severe as one would expect, but the state also needs to take into account the individuals readiness to travel farther distances to continue skiing if their local ski area has been shut down due to climate change impacts.

Dawson and Scott (2013) surveyed 570 skiers in the Northeast and they concluded that an individual would not travel more than three hours for a day trip and they also would not travel more than five hours (one way) for a weekend trip with the goals of skiing at an operational ski area. This will only worsen if policies like the Climate Action Plan are not implemented because individuals living in lower elevated states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, southern Maine and southern New Hampshire will not be willing to travel such long distances to the few remaining ski regions in northern New Hampshire and Vermont. However, there is a downside to this projected travel distance for those who are willing to drive long distances to continue skiing: the increase in vehicle emissions due to this long-distance transportation, which will only add to the projected implications of climate change (Dawson & Scott, 2013).

Figure one (attached), is a decision making flowchart created by Dawson and Scott (2013) that will be helpful for ski area managers to prepare and conclude some type of decision making strategies to keep their ski area economically viable. This supply and demand side flowchart showing the impacts of climate change is crucial for managers to consider because according to Dawson and Scott, “It is important to know if there is reliable snow, if reliable snow is expected in the future, if adequate snow can be produced, if there are adequate participants now, if there will be in the future, and of course what the cost will be of required adaptive strategies,” (2013). There of course is the opportunity for those ski areas who are more impacted than others to look to their competitors to see how they are adapting to climate change, and there is also the option of looking into non-snow-based activities to attempt to remain profitable (Dawson & Scott, 2013). However, if the answer to any of these critical supply and demand side questions regarding a prosperous and operational ski area is a “no” then it might be time for these managers and their staff to consider terminating the business in order to not incur any more revenue losses.


Climate change and its significant impacts on the New Hampshire (and the Northeast) ski regions are at risk for a loss of billions of industry dollars, and the communities and individuals who are heavily reliant on winter tourism will also be negatively effected by climate change in their particular areas (Dawson & Scott, 2013). According to Dawson and Scott’s research (2013) on winter tourism and the impact climate change will have on it, the 30-42 ski areas that are forecasted to stay operational after this century will have the upper hand of this market gain caused by the loss of competition from the closed ski areas around New England.

Monopolistic competition is a suitable depiction of what will happen to these 30-42 remaining ski area but despite this market gain, the remaining ski areas will still need to adapt and prepare for the burdens associated with the loss of competition due to climate change (i.e. crowding, increased water use for snowmaking, infrastructure scarcity, diminishing capital). Referring to figure 2 (attached), if the Climate Action Plan isn’t enforced to it’s fullest extent, the average total cost (ATC) curve will shift up due to the increased cost of capital (natural resources) to keep the ski area operational. The ski area is now incurring a loss because the cost is more than the ski area is receiving for each unit and this will cause further exit from the industry.

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The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan, which was published in 2009 outlines the goals that the state has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 (Wake et al. 2012). There are obvious costs that come along with any policy implementation but it is important to consider that these costs will be most expensive at the beginning stages of the Climate Action Plan and The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (2009) states that as time goes on, these costs will diminish and the policies implemented will create net economic benefits. While seemingly ambitious and overwhelming, the Climate Action Plan is backed by majority of state officials, businesses and stakeholders, so if the implementation period between 2009 and 2050 is utilized to it’s fullest extent, we can potentially see mid-range, if not major prevention and even somewhat of a turnaround regarding the major risks that are projected for the winter tourism sector of New Hampshire.

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How Climate Change Has Impacted The Tourism Sector In New Hampshire Ski Regions During Winter. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 27, 2023, from
“How Climate Change Has Impacted The Tourism Sector In New Hampshire Ski Regions During Winter.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
How Climate Change Has Impacted The Tourism Sector In New Hampshire Ski Regions During Winter. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Sept. 2023].
How Climate Change Has Impacted The Tourism Sector In New Hampshire Ski Regions During Winter [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Mar 12 [cited 2023 Sept 27]. Available from:
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