To Ski or not to Ski

Hey again everyone, its Michael here. This time I’m going to discuss the effects of global warming- specifically in the alpine areas of Europe and here is why…

Skiing in the Alps has been and remains to be a very popular winter holiday, but the slopes are under threat. So much so that in November a swiss Glacier held the world’s largest postcard made from over 125,000 drawings and messages from children all over the world about climate change; to try and advocate for more action (BBC News, 2018).  The Alps have been and will be heavily affected by climate change. 30% of the GDP of some Swiss mountain areas such as Graubunden comes from tourism, with the snow being a major draw (Serquet and Rebetez, 2011). In Austria as a whole, over 3% of its GDP comes from Winter Sports (Damm, Köberl & Prettenthaler, 2014). These figures illustrate just how important the mountainous regions are for tourism, and how dependent these regions are from its revenues. So how bad for the environment is it to go skiing?

The industries in the mountains have come up with ingenious ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, some being more sensible than others. One of the main methods to prolong the snow on the slopes is to put a blanket styled material over the snow when it isn’t in use so that the sun does not melt the snow on the slopes. This idea is one of the more practical responses to the shortening seasons caused by climate change and has proved quite effective (The Telegraph, 2017). However, it is not a long-term solution for if climate change gets to four degrees as predicted, there won’t be any snow on the slopes to cover over (Beniston and Stoffel, 2016).

However, other more unsustainable methods have been used. One of these methods is to create snow using snow machines, on the slopes in areas which no longer are receiving enough to do snow sports on. This, however, isn’t sustainable as the machines use large amounts of water and energy to make the snow, the process of which is adding to global warming (English, 2018) – and as such is partly responsible for the lack of snow! However, if temperature increases of over six degrees are correct (Pestereva, Popova & Shagarov, 2012) snow machines may be the only way to keep snow on those slopes, as any precipitation would be more likely to fall as rain.

So, is a Skiing holiday worth the environmental damage? Relative to other getaways, a holiday in a winter wonderland is no worse than travelling to a beach somewhere hot. As instead of the sea, its snow, and instead of air conditioning, people have the heating on all day. The main thing to keep in mind is where you go, are they using sustainable practices? Do they use snow machines, or do they have natural slopes? Making consumers aware when making these choices can really make a difference in stopping unnecessary pollution into the atmosphere which leads to global warming.

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BBC News. (2018). Shrinking glacier hosts largest postcard. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Dec. 2018].

Beniston & Stoffel, 2016. Rain-on-snow events, floods and climate change in the Alps: Events may increase with warming up to 4 °C and decrease thereafter. Science of the Total Environment, 571(C), pp.228–236.

Damm, Köberl & Prettenthaler, 2014. Does artificial snow production pay under future climate conditions? – A case study for a vulnerable ski area in Austria. Tourism Management, 43, pp.8–21.

English, C. (2018). Why snow machines are cold comfort as the Alps warm. [ONLINE] The Guardian Available at: [Accessed 13 December 2018].

Nina M. Pestereva, Nina Yu. Popova & Lev M. Shagarov, 2012. Modern Climate Change and Mountain Skiing Tourism: the Alps and the Caucasus. Evropejskij Issledovatelʹ 30(9), pp.1602–1617.

Serquet, G. and Rebetez, M., 2011. Relationship between tourism demand in the Swiss Alps and hot summer air temperatures associated with climate change. Climatic Change, 108(1-2), pp. 291-300.

The Telegraph. (2017). Scientists test brazen new plan to save Swiss glaciers from global warming. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 December 2018].


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