DOI: 10.3390/tourhosp5010013 ISSN: 2673-5768

Climate Change and the Future of Ski Tourism in Canada’s Western Mountains

Natalie L. B. Knowles, Daniel Scott, Robert Steiger
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • History
  • Cultural Studies

Winter, snow, and mountains, epitomized by the world-renowned Rocky Mountain range, are an integral part of Canada’s sport-culture identity and international tourism brand, yet the climate change risk posed to this important ski tourism region remains uncertain. This study used the ski operations model SkiSim 2.0 to analyze the climate risk for the region’s ski industry (26 ski areas in the province of Alberta and 40 in British Columbia) with advanced snowmaking, including changes in key performance metrics of ski season length, snowmaking requirements, holiday operations, and lift and terrain capacity. If Paris Climate Agreement targets are met, average seasons across all ski areas decline 14–18% by mid-century, while required snowmaking increases 108–161%. Regional average operational terrain declined only 4–9% in mid-century, as the largest ski areas were generally more climate resilient. More pronounced impacts are projected under late-century, high-emission scenarios and in low latitudes and coastal British Columbia regions. When compared with continental and international ski tourism markets, Western Canada has relatively lower climate change impacts, which could improve its competitiveness. The results inform further research on demand-side as well as the winter sport-tourism industry and destination-scale climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.