Climate Change Puts NY Jobs and Livelihoods at Risk

Climate change spares no one. While global climate change can seem remote or feel overwhelming for many, the truth is that it is already impacting New Yorkers, like those who participate in winter sports and those that make money in this industry.

To draw attention to the way climate change is reshaping the winter sports industry, we created a video to tell the story.

When Christmas Eve 2015 rolled around, thousands of temperature records were shattered across the state when temps hit the upper 60’s and 70’s in many locations. As an avid outdoorsman, I immediately thought about the impacts on local ski resorts. Near my home in the Catskills are two resorts, one of which I have snowboarded at for more than two decades. Fluctuating temperatures and unpredictable weather can be part of living in the Northeast – but with increasingly erratic weather, jobs and livelihoods are literally on the line. As Mike Pratt, the General Manager of Gore Mountain in the North Country noted during our filming: “When we have droughts they’re longer, heat waves are longer, rainstorms are bigger. Everything seems to be extreme.”

Governor Cuomo has called New York’s ski industry “vital to New York’s economy,” but climate change and warming temps have guaranteed that we can no longer count on consistent, deep snow packs during the winter months. New York State is home to the most ski resorts of any state (51), which employ 13,000 people. When these mountains experience shorter seasons, the surrounding towns and villages feel the lost revenue; skiers in New York contribute nearly half a billion dollars annually in spending at businesses.

This season, many New York ski resorts opened as expected in November – only to close shortly after. Many were forced to close during the high time for families taking to the slopes and trails (Christmas week) because, as a high school athlete who participate in our video noted: “It was a balmy 60 degrees.”

Closings means less revenue, which results in job losses, increased costs on resorts to maintain snow levels, and businesses throughout the community struggling to survive.

The science of climate change is settled – and every single person I spoke to throughout this process, be it the high school student or the casual parent enjoying some time with family in the snow, understood how dire its impacts are. They are frustrated by the lack of action and the snowballing effect of complacency.

Much of our videoing occurred in the Adirondacks which is, ironically, represented by U.S. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a freshman who has repeatedly voted to block climate action.

Our video provides a snapshot of how climate change is affecting one segment of the population here in New York – it is an important piece of the puzzle and shows why public officials must get serious about climate action.

Livelihoods are at risk.