Future forecast is less snow, more rain with climate change

Despite a record breaking snow year, experts say Sun Peaks should be actively addressing climate change.

WRITTEN BY Carli Berry

With rising global temperatures, Sun Peaks can expect more precipitation and less snow, says a Thompson Rivers University (TRU) researcher.

Tom Pypker, a climate change and ecosystems management professor at TRU and Sun Peaks resident, said he’s surprised that ski resorts haven’t campaigned more aggressively for government action to limit carbon emissions.

For Sun Peaks he said in a “do nothing scenario,” which the world is currently on track for, rising global temperatures will cause a decrease of snowfall throughout the season by roughly 20 per cent, but with the same amount of precipitation, meaning that Sun Peaks will see more rain during the shoulder seasons.

Today, the average daily temperature sits at around -5 C for the ski season, but he expected that will change to as high as 0 C by 2070.

“If Canada and the rest of the world actually meet their Paris Agreement objectives, the impacts will actually be pretty marginal… you’ll still see warming but the impact on the snow won’t be as significant,” he said.

In 2015, Canada and 194 other countries reached the Paris Agreement, to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2 C and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C.
To reduce carbon emissions, Pypker suggested the resort should create more public transportation from Kamloops and Sun Peaks, and encourage ride sharing programs as transportation and congestion are issues.

With propane as the main source of heat in the municipality, he suggested that people begin using wood burning pellets, which are a renewable source of heat as opposed to propane.

Aiden Kelly, chief marketing officer with Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), said the resort has an environmental management system which is discussed on a weekly basis.

As an example of initiatives the resort is undertaking, Kelly explained technology is helping the resort reduce paper waste by moving waivers online. This has saved roughly 160 pounds of paper waste in the last six months, he said.

To groom the runs, new technology has allowed the resort to track the usage of each machine to reduce fuel consumption, he said, adding it’s in the resort’s best interest to become more efficient from a business perspective.

While electric snow cats or snowmobiles aren’t on the table for Sun Peaks yet, the electric industry is something the resort is paying attention to, Kelly said.

SPR does not own a shuttle, but does have partnerships with local providers, one of which runs daily in the peak season until March 31.

“(Shuttles) are something that the private sector takes care of,” Kelly said, adding that conversations are happening within the resort to develop a plan promoting and incentivising carpooling.

“Almost our entire business is dependent on the weather. Whether it’s really cold temperatures that we’ve seen over the past week, or if it’s really warm temperatures that we saw in the spring that curtailed our operations, or forest fires in the summer, all these things impact us… so we pay close attention to climate change,” Kelly said.

Calls to Mayor Al Raine were not returned by press deadline.