comment 0

The impact of climate change on the Winter Olympics

It was pure luck, but we couldn’t have timed this last week any better. It started snowing in the mountains around Salt Lake City on Tuesday, and it felt like it didn’t stop until Saturday. On Wednesday morning, which was peak powder, the main resorts were reporting anywhere between 23″ and 30″ of fresh now. It was the stuff of magical dreams.

But snowfall is, of course, highly variable. SLC is having a record year, whereas many resorts in Europe weren’t able to open until mid-January because of a lack of snow. And from a macro perspective, things are generally getting worse. According to this report, for every one degree increase in the world’s average temperature, global snow cover is reduced by about 8%.

What this mean is that, even in low emission scenarios, many of the places that previously hosted the Winter Olympics, may struggle to do so again in the future because of “non-reliable” snow cover. Freestyle ski and snowboard, for example, typically wants a minimum of 1 meter of snowpack as a base, and sometimes more if melting is expected.

Things do not look positive for Vancouver, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and even Chamonix in the below chart. (And as a further blow, the authors of the report also don’t know how to spell Vancouver.) Naturally, this is something that you might want to consider when looking at long-term investments that are dependent on fresh snow.

You can, however, ignore Sochi in the above chart. Because this was never a great place for the Winter Olympics and it’s unclear to me why this place was ever chosen (other than for presumably nefarious reasons). It’s like: “We are one of the largest and coldest countries in the world. We have a lot of snow in Russia. But for fun, let’s choose one of the few places with a sub-tropical climate.”

Excluding Sochi, though, this is an alarming chart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s