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Is snowmaking climate change maladaptation?

Published: 26 October 2022

Abstract: Snowmaking has been an integral part of the multi-billion-dollar ski industry in most regional markets for more than 20 years and is one of the most visible and widespread forms of climate adaptation in the tourism sector. Under accelerating climate change, snowmaking is projected to increase at most destinations - some substantially. Snowmaking has come under increasing criticism in recent years and branded by some scholars and ski industry observers as unsustainable and maladaptive as a climate change response. Using data on snowmaking from across the diverse US ski market, this study assesses snowmaking against multiple established criteria that define maladaptation. The analysis demonstrates that snowmaking is highly place-context specific, varying at the individual operator and regional market scales, and represents a continuum from successful (and sustainable) adaptation to maladaptation. Regions of the US where snowmaking is most likely to be maladaptive are identified (water insecure and carbon intense electricity grids). The framework highlights the importance of scale and a tourism system perspective when assessing (mal)adaptation and provides decision-makers with a tool to evaluate the compatibility of snowmaking with climate action plans at the destination and regional scale.
Keywords: climate change / ski industry / snowmaking / maladaptation / sustainable tourism

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