Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Mark Williams

Third Advisor

Phil Graves


This thesis explores the relationships between snow quality, skier visits, and economic revenue in Colorado. The ski industry is an integral part of the Colorado economy, providing thousands of jobs and billions in economic revenue. Recently, climate change has begun to pose an intensifying threat, eyeing one of Colorado’s most iconic and key industries. Determining the range of potential economic effects due to climate change’s impact on the ski industry is the primary goal of this thesis. To forecast economic changes for Colorado, a series of regression analyses are conducted, built upon historical environmental and economic data. It is found that Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) is a significant driver of skier visitation in Colorado, therefore also affecting economic revenue. However, results show that precipitation has a much larger influence of SWE in comparison to temperature. This contests the original postulation in this thesis, as temperature was initially thought to be more significant. It is concluded that the Colorado will suffer some economic loss due to the impacts of climate change on the ski industry. However, quantifying this accurately is difficult given the nature of the data and uncertainty in climate models. This thesis finds it to be in the best interest for ski resorts and ski communities to innovate and adapt now, to allow for proper resilience no matter the magnitude of changes that may occur.