As Pennsylvanians have been basking in the above normal temperatures of the last week, ski areas across the state are sputtering to life. Key word, sputtering.
According to onthesnow.com,only one ski area is operating full-time, while two others are posting weekends only. And with more warm weather in the long-term forecast, it doesn’t seem that the rest of the state’s resorts will be operational any time soon.
The Scranton Times-Tribune recently reported that Sno Mountain opens this year saddled with $24 million in debt and after a warm winter last year, many other hills around the state were probably looking to rebound with a strong season as well.
But according to a new report conducted by researchers at the University of New Hampshire and published by Protect Our Winters and the National Resources Defense Council, operating in the red could become the norm for ski areas across the country.
December 2011 was the fourth warmest winter in the last century, according to the report, and the third lowest snow cover extent in 40 years.
It goes on to say that these conditions, which seem extreme now, are indicators of where our winters are heading, and the economic impact could be catastrophic.
The winter tourism industry added an estimated $12.2 billion to the U.S. economy last year, an additional $1.4 billion in state and local taxes and $1.7 billion in federal taxes.
In Pennsylvania alone, winter tourism generates 12,000 jobs, the report states. But many of those jobs are vulnerable to winter conditions.
During low-snowfall years, Pennsylvania also recorded the suffered the worst hit to its revenue stream in the mid-Atlantic region “missing out on more than $67
million in potential resort revenue and over 800 fewer jobs” in comparison with snowy, colder years, the report states.
The report predicts that only 4 in 14 resorts will be able to remain profitable in warmer, shorter winters and tougher economic climate.
More than 20 resorts operate in Pennsylvania. Based on that prediction, fewer than six would survive, and the ramifications for the economy state-wide would be, simply put: Disastrous.