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News / Comment

NEWS / Ski resorts get glimpse of the future with record December 2015 temperatures
Category: Tourism

Image: By TechnoAlpin AG - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

December 2015 marked one of the worst winters for ski tourism in the Alps. A high-pressure area caused early snow to melt and did not replace it. Turning on the snow canons for artificial snow was not an option either as temperatures remained too warm for snow to form. Ski resorts in North America are also experiencing serious changes in snowfall patterns.

In the long-term, climate change is likely to shorten skiing seasons or displace them to higher altitudes. This poses a challenge for the well-established winter tourism in Europe and North America as ski resorts will have to adapt to new conditions. Europe is by far the largest market for the global winter sports industry accounting for 83% of the world's top (1m+ visitors per year) ski resorts.

However despite the rising temperatures some ski resorts are taking action to adapt. Resorts in the northwest of the USA are leading the way to try and find business practices that help them adapt to changes to the ski season.

One of the methods to deal with the lack of snow is snow harvesting. This involves transporting snow from locations where it is plentiful to slopes that need a top up. In Austria, snow from the Großglockner –Austria’s highest mountain (3,798 m)– has been used on many Alpine slopes over the last years. Just as with snow cannons, this method depends on the local temperature.

Another possibility for winter resorts is diversification. By broadening year-round offers, resorts could be more evenly distributed through out different seasons. Whistler Backcomb, for instance, a major ski resort north of Vancouver, has been a very popular summer destination for many years due to its massive mountain bike park. Obviously, diversifying the business of ski resorts is no simple task. It is, therefore, even more important to think about business adaptation and confront climate-related challenges at the earliest opportunity.