Aspen Resort Fights to Save Endangered Snow Climate change is causing worry in the ski industry. Ski resorts need powdery snow to profit and survive, and global warming threatens to keep the slopes bare. An Aspen resort is taking action, running a series of ads to raise awareness of global warming.

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Aspen Resort Fights to Save Endangered Snow

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From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY. This is the time of year when ski resorts normally set off a blizzard of ads. There's great snow, even greater deals on mountains from California to Vermont. But the fashionable and ever popular Aspen Ski Resort is not celebrating this year's snow. Instead it's warning climate change is threatening the snow being there at all. From Aspen Public Radio, Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER: In his cramped office, Auden Schendler, the Aspen Skiing Company's director of environmental affairs, skims through glossy pages of the latest ski magazine.

Mr. AUDEN SCHENDLER (Aspen Ski Company): You can just flip every page in this magazine and you'll see - you know, here's and ad for Heavenly; it's a skier enjoying wonderful powder.

SIEGLER: Schendler eventually finds what he's looking for. It's and ad by his company showing a picture of the resort's Highlands Bowl. The Bowl is an icon to extreme skiing junkies, except in this ad you can't really see the Bowl because it's covered by a huge melting snowflake. A hot red sky forms the backdrop. The words snow and endangered species are featured prominently. Schendler says the ads are meant to highlight a sense of urgency about what climate change means for skiing.

Mr. SCHINDLER: The ski industry is a weird beast. You're basically running out of deficit until March 1, and then you make all your profit in March. Climate change is going to shrink our seasons. If we lose March, we go out of business.

SIEGLER: Schendler says the ads are radical and he's not sure other resorts will go as far. For now, he's right. For example, North America's busiest ski resort, Canada's Whistler Blackcomb, isn't going this route. Mountain planning Manager Arthur DeYoung(ph)...

Mr. ARTHUR DEYOUNG (Whistler Blackcomb): Although we very much share the same concerns and are working very hard to do our part to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

SIEGLER: Adapt is key. Huge resorts like Whistler are expanding higher up the mountain, where temperatures are much colder.

Mr. YOUNG: We are in good shape long term to weather climate change, other than I would say are the lower third of our ski area.

SIEGLER: Scientists aren't as optimistic. Outside his lab in Boulder, Klaus Walter(ph), a climatologist with the University of Colorado, says climate change will create winners and losers in the industry. He predicts West Coast Resorts will be hardest hit.

Mr. KLAUS WALTER (University of Colorado): If they're not able to kind of move the whole operation up the mountain, places where the mountains only reach five, six thousand feet, they may be out of luck by the year 2100.

SIEGLER: If average temperatures rise by a predicted five degrees by then - and that's a conservative estimate - the elevation at which the snow will survive will climb even higher. Whatever happens, Walter anticipates that resorts in the Rockies probably won't be known for their light and fluffy powder anymore. But because their mountain summits are higher, they'll at least have some snow.

Mr. WALTER: To say that you can't go skiing anymore a hundred years from now is wildly exaggerated, at least for the interior of the United States.

SIEGLER: Still, Walter says the ads are kick-starting a necessary discussion on global warming. Randy Udell(ph) of Colorado's Community Office for Resource Efficiency, a nonprofit environmental group, agrees. Furthermore, Udell says the ski industry could be doing more to reduce their environmental footprint, especially, he says, when it comes to the energy-intensive process of snow-making.

Mr. RANDY UDELL (Community Office for Resource Efficiency): They use coal fired electricity to make this snow, so in the process of making snow they themselves are cannibalizing the climate on which their industry depends.

SIEGLER: In Aspen, resort officials are quick to ramble off a list of their company's environmental achievements, most recently a contract to power the entire resort, including their snowmakers, with wind.

For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler in Aspen.

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