Campitlo Mattese, a popular ski resort in south-central Italy, was unable to support skiers due to high temperatures and lack of snow. Image source: US “Time Magazine” website
Some ski resorts cover glaciers with protective blankets to keep them from melting during the summer.
Image source: BBC website
Anzell in Switzerland has been called Europe’s greenest ski resort. This Swiss village experienced difficulties during the “opening” phase of the 2022-2023 winter. Like other Alpine ski resorts, low-lying Ansel was forced to close some pistes due to lack of snow and rainy weather at the end of the year and the beginning of the year.
According to reports, the Alps experienced the highest temperatures on record last Christmas and New Year, with temperatures in north-west Switzerland reaching 20.9°C. While snow has returned here in early January, the recent warm weather on across the Alps many destinations realize that they only have two options: to close or adapt their business models.
“When the temperature rises, it is[anwedd dŵr]falls as rain, not as snow,” says Mary Cavitt, a glaciologist and climate researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. What happens is that the altitude of these ski resorts is below 1600 meters. There, there is more weather snowfall adds to existing snow melt In low altitude ski resorts in Europe, snow depth shrinks by 3-4 cm every 10 years.
Many worry that climate change is making skiing scarce. From the Swiss Alps to the Rocky Mountains, winter sports destinations around the world are tackling the effects of climate change.
Covering glaciers with protective blankets in the Alps
As the temperature rises, the ski season gets shorter and the slopes get greener. Constant heavy rain in the Alpine resort has also contributed to melting snow and muddy areas.
As well as taking steps to reduce emissions, Ansel plans ahead for a period when the ski season disappears. More investment is being made in cycle paths, hiking paths and walking paths, emphasizing that these facilities are available in all seasons.
During Christmas and New Year, many alpine resorts were forced to close their ski slopes because the temperature was too high to produce artificial snow. Meanwhile, some resorts have resorted to covering the glacier with protective blankets to prevent the snow from melting in the summer. The blanket is made of a white, UV-resistant synthetic material that protects the thick winter snow from the sun’s rays on warm summer days. According to a 2021 study, the technology could reduce snow and ice melting by 50% to 70% compared to unprotected glacier surfaces.
However, the researchers warn that the process is costly. Covering all of Switzerland’s 1,000 largest glaciers is estimated to cost around $1.5 billion a year. Such modifications can also have negative effects on the environment. Despite the bleak outlook, many holiday destinations are setting ambitious long-term sustainability goals to reduce emissions and conserve natural resources.
Italian ski resorts target summer sports
The Italian media have warned that those working in the tourism industry must accept that the future of skiing will no longer exist. Pessimistic research predicts that skiing in the Dolomites will cease as soon as 2036.
Marco Bussonne, president of the Federation of Italian Mountain Communities, said it was essential that winter sports venues instead invest in summer tourism.
While no business has given up on winter sports yet, investing more fully in summer sports could be a good business strategy. In addition to running cable cars and operating mountain hotels in the summer, some practitioners also suggested that the government and the community should invest in reservoirs, which can provide water for snow cannons in the winter, and become tourist destinations for summer fishing tourists, boats and sights. And they could provide water to fight bushfires caused by a warming climate.
North American ski resorts are looking for sustainable alternatives
Canada’s “Globe and Mail” reported that the country’s ski resorts face twin challenges, including a long-term climate crisis and short-term warm weather leaving “bare spots” on the snow-capped mountains. Ski resort operators are struggling to adapt to the crisis.
Last year, Moonstone Mountain Resort in St. Louis, Ontario, near Barrie, Ontario, heavy losses not only due to the shortened ski season due to the new crown epidemic, but also invested nearly $2 million in additional snowmaking equipment and pipelines due to a warming climate.
The resort is located in an area north of Toronto where it often snows. But in the age of climate change, snowfall in the region has become unsustainable. The Canadian Environment and Climate Change Monitoring Station reports that the region will see more rain than snow in 2023.
Resorts are spending more and more on snowmaking, forcing most resorts to find solutions. For example, the Blue Mountains Ski Resort in Ontario has reduced the electricity use of its nighttime ski lights by 40% by retrofitting LED lights, and the water pumps used to make snow have been reduced by 30% compared to 2015.
In Ontario and the eastern United States, larger ski areas are also recognizing the need for diversification. Spas with low demand for snow, indoor water parks and children’s sledding tracks are blooming in the ski resort. Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY, has roller coaster rides through the woods and golf in the non-ski months, while Blue Mountain Ski Resort has positioned itself as a year-round sports and spa destination.
Reporter Zhang Jiaxin