Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Participation in Cross-Country Skiing in Finland under Climate Change: Application of Multiple Hierarchy Stratification Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Participation in Cross-Country Skiing in Finland under Climate Change: Application of Multiple Hierarchy Stratification Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

Climate change and outdoor recreation have been investigated using empirical data and models to examine the potential consequences, i.e., changes in recreational behavior in response to possible climate change. Studies on climate change and skiing have mainly focused on downhill skiing (e.g., Breiling & Charamza, 1999; Harrison et al., 2001; Krämer, 2005; Moen Sc Fredman, 2005; Scott et al., 2005). Such studies have forecasted a considerable decrease in the number of skiers (Fukushima et al. 2002), particularly at lower altitudes (Breiling & Charamza, 1999; Irland et al., 2001). Loomis and Crespi (1999) also analysed cross-country skiing as a part of overall skiing activity. They forecasted a decrease in the number of visitor days to skiing areas, and found this activity to be among the most sensitive to changing climate.

In Nordic countries, cross-country skiing is an ancient way of moving from one place to another during the winter. In many cases, making snow artificially is a key adaptive mechanism in response to climate change (Scott et al., 2003; AaIl & Hoyer, 2005). However, traditional skiing uses extensive land areas with natural snow cover and cannot easily rely on artificial snow. In Finland, cross-country skiing is currently a part of the everyday winter lifestyle, as 38% of Finns annually participate in this activity (Pouta & Sievänen, 2001). Cross-country skiing has also been proven to be an excellent way of exercising and gaining health benefits. The opportunity to ski is part of the Nordic "everyman's right," the traditional right of open access that provides nearly unlimited possibilities for skiers to enjoy cross-country skiing in forests, fields and on ice-covered lakes. However, skiing mostly takes place on prepared ski trails in close-to-home recreation areas (even in larger cities) provided by the recreational administration agencies of municipalities. Thus far it has been possible to ski cross-country every winter in all parts of Finland using prepared ski trails. According to climate scenarios, the boundary of the winter snow cover will cross Finland in the future (Ruosteenoja et al., 2005), which means that snow cover in southern Finland will become increasingly less probable. The changing climate will have profound effects on skiing opportunities, particularly in the most densely populated southern part of Finland.

Climate change poses considerable challenges for both private and public cross-country ski centers and other service providers. For private enterprises the question is how to keep customers and business running under changing conditions. For public agencies providing recreation opportunities the challenges are more multifaceted, such as how to provide opportunities equally for all citizen groups, including those who have a weaker capacity to adapt to the changing climate. For public agencies promoting general health and wellbeing it is particularly important to know which population groups are likely to give up participation in skiing, and how to encourage these groups to find alternative physical activities.Therefore, for public agencies, information on who will be affected and who will be able to continue skiing is essential. In discussion on global warming, such questions are typically addressed at international or interregional levels (Thomas &Twyman, 2005). On smaller scales, such as the individual level or among population groups within a country, the issue of who will be affected has received little attention (Grothmann & Patt, 2005). In Finland, cross-country skiing is part of the cultural heritage and an important leisure activity. In this study we show that skiing activity is related to the individual socioeconomic profile. We also demonstrate that climate change will lead some people to give up traditional skiing and that the decline in the rate and frequency of participation will not occur equally among population groups.

The effects of climate change have been argued to be greater or possibilities to adapt to them smaller in communities with limited economic resources, a low level of technology, and poor information and skills (Grothmann & Patt, 2005). …

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