New Hampshire’s mountains and winter climate support a ski industry that contributes substantially to the state economy. Through more than 70 years of history, this industry has adapted and changed with its host society. The climate itself has changed during this period too, in ways that influenced the ski industry’s development. During the 20th century, New Hampshire’s mean winter temperature warmed about 2.1° C (3.8° F). Much of that change occurred since 1970. The mult‐decadal variations in New Hampshire winters follow global temperature trends. Snowfall exhibits a downward trend, strongest in southern New Hampshire, and also correlates with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Many small ski areas opened during the early years while winters were cold and snowy. As winters warmed, areas in southern or lowelevation locations faced a critical disadvantage. Under pressure from both climate and competition, the number of small ski areas leveled off and then fell steeply after 1970. The number of larger, chairliftoperating ski areas began falling too after 1980. Aprolonged warming period increased the importance of geographic advantages, and also of capital investment in snowmaking, grooming and economic diversification. The consolidation trend continues today. Most of the surviving ski areas are located in the northern mountains. Elsewhere around the state, one can find the remains of “lost” ski areas in places that now rarely have snow suitable for downhill skiing. This case study demonstrates a general approach for conducting integrated empirical research on the human dimensions of climate change.



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International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy


Emerald Publishing

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© MCB UP Limited 2003 Published by MCB UP Ltd


This is an Author’s Original Manuscript of an article published by Emerald Publishing in International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy on 2003, available online:

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