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Park City’s Climate in 2050 is Forecasted to Be Significantly Different Than Now. Shouldn’t That Impact other Forecasts?

If you haven’t read a 2009 report prepared for The Park City Foundation on how climate change is expected to impact Park City, it is worth a look.

The key take aways are that the climate in Park City is changing. By 2050, the temperature will likely be 5ºF higher on average. Snow will start to accumulate 1.5 – 2 weeks later. Snow depths at the top of our mountains will be up to 36% less than historical averages. Because temperatures will be higher, snowmaking in the early part of the season will be impossible.

The issue is that many of our forecasts like population growth, visitors, etc. are one dimensional. They take into account the last 15 years and extrapolate that going forward. Yet, Park City’s climate, which is already less favorable for skiing than a place like Little Cottonwood Canyon, is hardly accounted for.

It seems as if people want to take a set of facts that support their case but ignore those facts that may impact that case. 2050 is a long way off, but that seems to be the measure that drives initiatives across the state and county. It is likely that many factors will change between now and then.

However, if the State of Utah estimates our population increasing 143% to 88,000, they also need to explain how that happens when our ski season will likely run from January 1 to March 15 and our average July and August temperatures will be 93º. Since it seems economics drive growth, all this has to be accounted for. The aforementioned report says, “By 2050, the potential impacts range from $160.4 million in lost output, $27.2 million in lost earnings, and 1,520 lost jobs (low emissions scenario) to $392.3 million in lost output, $66.6 million in lost earnings, and 3,717 lost jobs (high emissions scenario)”. That’s 2-5X’s bigger than Sundance’s annual economic impact to the state of Utah today.

We all want to see Park City remain the beautiful place that drew us here. Yet we can’t afford to be one dimensional in how we look at our problems. If we are, we will waste our valuable resources while solving the wrong problems and ignoring the real issues at hand.


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