New research from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows that the Sierra Nevada region is in for some drastic changes through the remainder of the 21st century. In fact, if the conclusion of the study comes to fruition, low elevation ski resorts will be obsolete as they stand now because they’ll be sitting below the new estimated snow line.
The study consisted of analyzing 70 years of snow data, in which researchers predicted climate change will turn West Coast winters into a season with more rain and less snow. The average snowfall in the northern Sierra, for example, could decrease by as much as 70 percent in the second half of the century. They say that same change will amount to about a 40 percent decrease in typical snowfall in the central and southern Sierra. The average snow line across the region in this scenario would rise anywhere from 1,300 feet to 1,600 feet higher. There will still be a lot of snow at the highest elevations with some areas seeing extreme winter conditions like this past season, however, they’ll be few and far between.
Scripps researchers painted a picture of what this all looks like for some of the marquee resorts in the region.
“For example, Mammoth Mountain, at an elevation between 2,400 and 3,300 meters (7,900 – 11,000 feet), is projected to receive 28 percent less snowfall in the latter half of the century. Lower elevation ski resorts such as Palisades and Northstar, both near Lake Tahoe, span elevational ranges of around 1,900 and 2,700 meters (6,200 – 8,900 feet),” authors of the study said. “They are projected to lose more than 70 percent of their snow accumulation in an average winter.”