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Potential Effects of Climate on Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding Demand and Value at U.S. National Forests

Binod P. Chapagain, Neelam C. Poudyal, J. M. Bowker, Ashley E. Askew, Donald B. K. English, Donald G. Hodges


Annually, 23 million recreationists participate in downhill skiing on over 180,000 acres of skiable land in the U.S. National Forest system, making it the second most popular outdoor activity in the system. While the emerging literature on climate science reveals changing climatic conditions in ski areas, the extent of climate change impact on the demand for and economic value of downhill skiing is unknown. By combining trip data collected from on-site surveys of skiers in national forests across the nation with climatic data collected through nearby weather stations, this study developed an aggregated travel cost model to estimate the net economic benefit of downhill skiing and snowboarding, and the projected impact of climate change on the demand and value. Per person per trip net economic benefit of downhill skiing was estimated to be in the range of $91 to $185 depending on the assumptions about skiers’ opportunity cost of time. When aggregated across visits and national forests, the total economic value of downhill skiing in the U.S. National Forest system ranged from $2.16 to $4.39 billion, annually. Climate variables including temperature, snow depth, and rainfall were correlated with ski demand, and projected changes in these climate variables could affect the economic benefits from skiing. Findings contribute to understanding the net economic benefit of maintaining downhill skiing on national forests, and will help recreation planners and tourism entrepreneurs develop adaptive strategies to sustain the skiing industry.

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economic valuation; travel cost; consumer surplus; downhill skiing; benefits; snow depth

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