Letter: Look at the future before changing Mount Sunapee

Mt. Sunapee Ski Area Expansion: The Future of Our Mountain

From Sue in Newbury, N.H.

Does it make sense to enlarge the existing area of skiing in the leased area of Mt. Sunapee Park by Mount Sunapee Resort, owner/lease holder CNL Lifestyle properties. The changes to Our Mountain to undertake such an expansion are long lasting. We must take a deeper look at the future of using Mt. Sunapee State Park as a skiing mountain.

According to research that has been done all over the globe and New Hampshire – winter tourism and skiing are trending downward. This is due to a decrease in the average days of snow cover, shorter snow seasons and warmer temperatures. In New England this could mean a 50% reduction of the average number of days with snow cover and a 25-50% reduction in the length of snow seasons (Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States – Dec. 2012 by E. Burakowski and M. Magnusson).

This means less snowfall, more winter rain, and earlier melting of snowpack.

All other winter tourism businesses dependent on winter weather; snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, etc., are going to be impacted.

By the 2009-10 ski season almost 90% of resorts were dependent on snowmaking – this keeps resorts in business but comes at a high cost and consumes up to 50% of a resort’s energy costs.(from the Dec. 2012 Study stated above).

Today, all of NH’s large ski areas make snow, and on average they can cover more than 90% of their terrain (Ski New Hampshire 2002). So you need more water – tapping into local rivers and lakes which expands the ecological footprint of ski areas.( International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy Volume 23 Number 10 2003 – Warming Winters and New Hampshire’s Lost Ski Areas: An integrated Case Study)

Snowmaking needs cold enough nights, yet “with nighttime minimum temperatures warming at a faster rate than daytime maximum temperatures, it is uncertain as to what extent snowmaking will last as an adaptation strategy” (from the Dec. 2012 Study).

There are also side-effects. In Vermont, ski resorts produce 25 percent of pollutants, boosting levels of smog and acid rain. Furthermore artificial snow is, four times denser, five times harder and heavier than natural snow, and makes soil erosion easier and delays seasonal defrost. (Journal of Applied Ecology 2005. 42, pp. 306-316). Thus expansion will only add to these problems.

Skiing is a costly industry. Getting more expensive to operate and as a result more costly to consumers. “Of the resorts able to stay open, at least 75 percent will require substantial artificial snowmaking to survive, which, in turn, will significantly increase operational costs and lift-ticket prices. To put it bluntly, within our lifetime, researchers say only 34 ski areas across the entire Northeast will be viable.” With snowy winters no longer the norm, northeastern ski areas will lose $3.2 billion in annual revenue over the next 40 years. (Boston Globe A Snowball’s Chance: As global temperatures rise, the New England ski industry is in danger of totally melting away – and sooner than you think. – Jan. 2014 by M. Kahn – Boston Globe)

The question remains: Why are we looking at the expansion of the skiing area of Mt. Sunapee State Park??

We need to take a look at the long-term future of Mt. Sunapee State Park. Do we want to see Mt. Sunapee as the beauty that she is – leaving it for the future enjoyment by all of the people of this great state. Letting her stand without her landscape being further compromised by a less than bright or even profitable future in the ski industry.

(October 2014)

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