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Systems Analysis Of Climate Change Vulnerability For The US Northeast Ski Sector

J. Dawson, D. Scott
Published 2010 · Business

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One of the greatest challenges to the sustainability of the winter tourism sector is climate change. Studies examining the implications of climate change for the ski tourism industry have mainly focused on vulnerability of the supply side (i.e. ski area infrastructure and operators) with limited attention given to the demand side (i.e. how tourists will respond to changing climate and ski conditions). A more holistic understanding of how the winter tourism marketplace may evolve under a changed climate is required for managers and communities to develop and plan specific adaptation strategies. Using a systems approach this study examines climate change vulnerability of both the supply and demand sides of the US Northeast ski tourism sector (i.e. a marketplace of some 103 ski areas across the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut). Multiple methods were employed including a climate change analogue (demand and supply side), future climate change and operations modeling (supply side), and a skier survey (demand side). Findings reveal a complexity of interacting and opposing impacts including the projected contraction northward of viable ski areas. In response to projected ski area closures in the region, demand for skiing opportunities is not likely to decrease proportionally. Ski areas that are able to remain operational under changed conditions should plan for a possible market-shift (i.e. spatial substitution) and may expect crowding issues and residual development pressure in association with the concentration of ski areas in fewer climate-advantaged regions.
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