Climate change ‘could kill off Alpine skiing’ – OECD

Climate change could put an end to the skiing industry in Europe, the OECD warned this week as ski stations failed to open while France saw World Cup ski races cancelled because of a lack of snow.

Although a gust of colder air has allowed the women’s World Cup races to be rescheduled for next week, the problem of snow scarcity is here to stay, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development warned.

Germany could be hardest hit as temperatures rise but France, Austria and Switzerland could all suffer significant economic losses if the annual 60-80 million tourists flooding in to skiing resorts are held back by lack of snow.

“There will also be “winners” and “losers”, both in terms of regions – for example Alpes Maritimes, Steiermark/Styria, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia are considerably more vulnerable than Grisons, Valais, and Savoie – and in terms of the ski areas themselves, with low-lying ski areas being considerably more vulnerable than areas with high altitudinal range,” the OECD said.

The Alps are particularly sensitive to climate change and have experienced a warming equaling roughly three times the global average so far, analysis from the OECD has shown, with the years 1994, 2000, 2002 and 2003 the warmest in the last 500 years. Climate models forecast a grim picture of receding glaciers and snow cover for the coming decades.

Although 90%, or 599 out of 666 medium to large Alpine ski areas, are still getting enough snow the remaining 10% are already experiencing shortages. A 1 degree temperature increase would bring the number of operational ski resorts down to 500 out of 666, and a 2 degree increase down to 400.

This week’s slightly lower temperatures have allowed more ski resorts to open – albeit with the help of artificial snow, which consumer a lot of water, energy as well as impacting negatively on the alpine environment. But making snow will become more expensive and eventually impossible as temperature rise further, the OECD warned.

Further information is available on the OECD website.

Goska Romanowicz

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