Will Global Warming Destroy Ski Resorts?

It’s not that difficult a question. The short answer is yes. Many holiday goers have seen their holiday dreams melt away along with the powder they were certain was a sure bet. Finding a good piste during the off-season is less likely than ever, and the fact resorts worldwide are starting to branch into summer tourism is very telling. Areas where Snowsports used to provide safe profits are now investing in downhill bike tracks, golf courses, and tennis courts. Sure, you can still choose between a casual green cycle or a tree-smashing black run, but it’s really not the same.

Look at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, if you can remember back to 2010. Hundreds of dump-trucks carried snow from over two hundred kilometres away to compensate for the warm January’s snow shortage. The Italian winter Olympics of 2006 almost went the same way, until last minute snow saved the day. It’s becoming clearer by the year that we simply cannot trust previously reliable resorts to make good on snowfall, even as late as January and February.

So in the long term the answer is definitely yes. But an interesting trend is taking place suggesting there’s no need to abandon hope yet. Not completely, at least. In some colder locations, the Canadian Lake Louise is one of many examples where the incredibly low temperatures are in fact too low for snow to form in large amounts. When the temperature drops particularly low precipitation becomes unlikely, with snow occurring only sparingly.

Then global warming enters to save the day, in a sense. The process has heated some of these places up just enough to allow for precipitation while remaining cold enough to completely discourage rain. The result is heavy snowfall, enough to make optimal, powder-packed resorts out of previously sparse areas. They don’t need to rely on snow machines, and the only reason they’ll be seeing dump trucks is to ship their extra snow out to the suddenly less fortunate parts of the world.

For environment-savvy skiers, it’s advisable to seek out these new hot spots, so to say, and make good on your skiing holiday while the chance still exists. The research paints a dire picture. The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche research looked at the number of snowy days occurring at low, medium and high altitudes, appropriate for building snowmen, cross-country and downhill skiing respectively, and saw an accelerating drop occurring since 1948. Where they used to enjoy ninety three days of downhill skiing a year this has now fallen to only seventy four. Medium altitudes experience only thirty eight days a year, down from the original fifty five, with low altitude snow days falling from twenty eight to a shocking thirteen.

So grab your gear and get out on the slopes while they’re still a safe bet. Consider sticking to the on-season, or visiting one of the newly warmed zones off season. Snowsports are amazing fun and well worth sticking with, but it might be worth learning to ride a mountain bike at some time in the next twenty years.

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