New survey launches to assess impacts of climate change on tourism |

New survey launches to assess impacts of climate change on tourism

Skiers, from left to right, Cooper Idt, Abby McGargill and Coby Speer celebrate the start of the 2020-21 ski season at Steamboat Resort. The friends were on the first chair of Christie Peak Express Tuesday morning. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As the impacts of climate change continue to grow stronger and more apparent, the Steamboat Springs Chamber and Steamboat Springs City Council are starting now to prepare for effects the Yampa Valley could see as a result of warming temperatures.

City Council and Chamber decided years ago to take more sustainable action through the Sustainability Tools for Assessing & Rating Communities, a program created for local municipalities to transition to cleaner energy.

“We as humans are impacting the climate,” said Gary Suiter, Steamboat city manager. “We need to continue to adapt and prepare for what the future might hold.”

As part of the city’s initiatives, the Chamber has sent a survey to all Steamboat businesses with connections to tourism — restaurants, retail, outdoor rental equipment and any other businesses attracting visitors.

The survey, designed by Summit Economics, will conclude at the end of January and asks businesses what, if anything, they are currently doing to mitigate future impacts of climate change, particularly as it relates to precipitation and potentially shortening Steamboat’s ski season, as other ski areas around the country have already seen.

“Summit (Economics) has been engaging communities across the West and seeing what are some of the best practices,” said John Bristol, Chamber director of economic development. “We’re looking at which sectors could potentially be impacted by climate change.”

Bristol said both winter and summer sports could be affected by warmer temperatures, but winter sports are the main focus, as less snow and later winters are two of the more immediate effects.

“The ski industry is the clearest example of adaptation strategies,” he said. “There are mountains that invest a lot in snowmaking to try and smoothe out later starts in the fall and keep them open longer in the spring.”

Suiter, who has worked in various communities across Colorado, said ski mountains in the southern parts of the state are already seeing less snow and later winters, and Steamboat will likely catch up soon.

“Some ski areas are already being impacted in terms of seasons going forward,” he said. “We need to be resilient and rebound from any impacts; whether they are human caused or not, we need to be prepared for the future.”

Bristol said the Chamber is also looking at increasing wildfires and how they can impact summer tourism.

“That certainly impacts perceptions and the summer time,” he said. “We’re trying to understand what adaptation strategies our local businesses are thinking about or should be thinking about.”

Suiter added early mitigation efforts are important in a community like Steamboat, where much of the city’s livelihood revolves around tourism from outdoor activities.

“There are coastal communities that already have plans for rising sea levels,” he said, “It is happening.”

Both Suiter and Bristol agreed the solutions are complex, but staff are working with businesses to brainstorm alternative outdoor sporting ideas for when traditional winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, may not be as accessible.

“We’re looking at which sectors could potentially be impacted by climate change, and so as we see the changes in the climate, how that impacts precipitation specifically,” Bristol said.

While Suiter said climate will likely have large impacts on Steamboat’s future, he believes the city and country will adapt.

“The Steamboat way is to always figure it out,” he said.


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