Climate Change in Park City, Utah: An Assessment of Climate, Snowpack, and Economic Impacts

This study examines how the snowpack at the Park City ski area, in the Wasatch Mountains of north central Utah, may be impacted by climate change, and how the regional economy could subsequently be impacted because of changes in winter tourism. The research and analysis was provided by Stratus Consulting for the Park City Foundation - a community foundation that promotes philanthropy, and partners with the nonprofit community to strengthen the greater Park City region.

The climate in the Park City area in the years 2030, 2050, and 2075 is predicted under several different scenarios of GHG emissions using various global climate models coupled with regional and statistical climate models. The projected Park City climate is then used to predict the length of the ski season, the timing of snow pack buildup and melt, and daily values of snow depth and coverage from the bottom to the top of the mountain. The number of skier days are estimated for 2030 and 2050 using an observed statistical relationship between snowpack characteristics and skier days in the recent past. The relationship between skier days and total economic output, earnings, and jobs in the Park City region is then analyzed using economic models. Lastly, this study estimates the total economic impact of climate change on the ski industry as the change in skier days times the economic impact per skier day.

This research predicts that Park City’s climate will change substantially as a result of climate change. Temperatures are predicted to rise and precipitation amount, timing, intensity are predicted to change. As a result, total snowpack and snow coverage will be reduced, the ski season will be shorter, and less of Park City Mountain Resort will be skiable. The impacts to snowpack are more severe further in the future, and under scenarios with higher GHG emissions.

The economic modeling results indicate that projected decreases in snowpack will have severe economic consequences for the region. In 2030, the predicted 15% decrease in snowpack is estimated to result in $120.0 million in lost output. This is estimated to result in approximately 1,137 lost jobs and $20.4 million in the form of lost earnings (or labor income). In 2050, the potential impacts range from $160.4 million in lost output, $27.2 million in lost earnings, and 1,520 lost jobs (low emissions scenarios) to $392.3 million in lost output, $66.6 million in lost earnings, and 3,717 lost jobs (high emissions scenario).

The report provides extensive detail on the methods utilized and results of the climate, snowpack, and economic modeling.

Publication Date: September 29, 2009

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Case study

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Impacts:

  • Economic
  • Air temperature
  • Precipitation changes

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