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Skiing's End?

Features
posted: 01/11/2001

Global warming has skiers cringing. But will it really be all that bad?

Most experts believe that average temperatures will increase by up to six degrees by 2100, but they disagree on how the weather will change. Predictions range from shorter, warmer winters to some of the most massive snow sieges ever.

"There's a lot of variability, but over the next few years, the ski season will be truncated," says Russ Schnell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Winter will begin later, spring will begin sooner."

Utah State University's Fred Wagner, who has been analyzing climatic patterns in the Rocky Mountains, expects an increase in both temperature and precipitation levels, which could actually mean more snow. But Wagner warns that even a half-degree temperature rise could shift the snow line up. "Lower-elevation ski mountains will be hit," he says.

A more optimistic outlook comes from NASA atmospheric scientist Drew Shindell. He believes rising temperatures and increased winter winds in the Northern Hemisphere could blow warm, wet air inland from the ocean, causing increased precipitation. "This could be good for places where the average temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit," he says.

And finally, a recent government report suggests that a five-degree rise in temperature could bring 30-45 percent more snow to California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont.

So don't ditch the sticks for a beach umbrella just yet.

So, what do you think? Will skiing (and snowy winters) go the way of the dinosaur? Tell us what you think via e-mail or in our forums for a chance to win... a shiny new skiingmag.com sticker.

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