By Daniel A. Shaw, Grist Magazine. Posted February 9, 2006.
With the Olympics starting this week, all eyes are on the slopes of Turin. But skiing and snowboarding could disappear from our collective culture in about 50 years if global-warming forecasts ring true. In a lot of popular ski areas, there simply won't be any snow.It's already happening in parts of Europe: They're wrapping glaciers in Switzerland, and Scottish Highlands ski areas are being recast as mountain-biking destinations. In the United States, resorts in the Pacific Northwest got a harbinger last season when a warm winter led to a 78 percent drop in skier visits.
Global warming, of course, will impact practically every aspect of life the world over, and recreational plights won't be our biggest worry. But right now, the ski industry is the perfect coal-mine canary for its fallout. And while no single industry can reverse climate change, enlightened self-interest is driving ski areas to adopt a wide range of innovative energy measures to prolong their survival -- and maybe ours.