Although the average temperature in Utah has risen in the last decade, hydrologist Brian McInerney from the National Weather Service said the high elevation of Utah’s resorts is keeping snow on the slopes.
Except for this year.
“I went to Powder Mountain on New Year’s for skiing, and the snow was barely there,” said Ashley Orr, a radiology student at Weber State University. “(The people I was with) said it was weird. As we were driving up, they said there’s usually snow on the sides of the road.”
A few students who participate in winter sports have noticed the snowpack is at its lowest in five years and attribute the decline to climate change. However, McInerney said this year’s modest snowpack is atypical and not reflective of rising temperatures.
On Wednesday, WSU’s Environmental Issues Committee presented a free screening of the short film “Generations: A Skiers’ and Snowboarders’ Perspective on Climate Change.”
The film exhibits the effects of climate change on various ski resorts around the world, stating that a large number have closed due to a lack of snow.
“The cascades and these coastal ranges that are lower, they’re definitely showing less snow accumulation in those mountains due to the warming conditions,” McInerney said. “Then, you can infer that’s going to be our fate as warming continues.”
Jonathan Marshall, a member of the Environmental Issues Committee and professor of zoology at WSU, said that, despite having the same amount of snowpack, Utah’s fluctuations in the weather are a sign of climate change.
“Last year, we had a ton of snow,” Marshall said. “So our poor snow season this year is because of climate change. Last year was an atypical year for snowpack, and then it was followed by another atypical year in the other direction.”
According to McInerney, Utah is getting warmer at a quicker-than-average pace.
“The average is 1.7 degrees globally that we’ve warmed,” McInerney said. “But we’re up to three degrees warmer at the eastern-central part of Utah.”
Marshall advised that WSU students need to be proactive about reducing their carbon footprint.
“A large portion of the Utah economy is based on tourism, so if our tourism industry is negatively affected, that’s going to affect everybody,” Marshall said. “A large part of our university budget is based on state tax funds.”
Orr attended the screening and said that, because she is a snowboarder from Canada, the film hit home.
“It makes you think about the next generation,” Orr said.
She added that from the film she learned to not take things for granted and be more environmentally conscious than she currently is.
“I never buy water and I always unplug my things,” Orr said.
Jerry Shepherd III, a multimedia student at WSU, said he is doing his part by using LED lighting.
Another student, Danny Harmer, said he is a “hippie” when it comes to saving the environment.
“We grow our own food, we recycle, we reuse everything we can,” Harmer said. “Our house kind of looks like a redneck mansion. We make do with what we have and live a simple life and don’t buy into commercialism.”
Marshall said he believes around 60 percent of carbon emissions produced by students are from their vehicles.
“I think the first thing with the biggest impact that a student can do is try to reduce that carbon footprint by trying to select a fuel-efficient car, trying to carpool, trying to use public transportation,” Marshall said. “The best thing to do is to take advantage of that UTA higher-ed pass.”
According to Marshall, WSU has also been taking the initiative to reduce its carbon footprint, especially over the last few years.
“As a university, we’ve been putting in solar panels,” Marshall said. “I believe we have completed the transition of all our shuttle buses to use natural gas, and they’re trying to convert our whole motor pool into natural gas.”