Climate change is threatening ski resorts around the world.
Europe has seen record heat this past winter, with temperatures reaching or even surpassing 70℉. Due to increasing temperatures and large amounts of rainfall, low-altitude ski resorts like Anzere, located in Switzerland, are facing melting snow and slushy conditions. Snow depth is decreasing—down 1.2 to 1.6 inches every decade—in these resorts (BBC). In the western US and Rockies, there has been a 23 percent decline in annual snowpack since 1955 (Wall Street Journal), and the average ski season length is shrinking in both the US and Europe, sometimes even by weeks. Ski resorts are trying to adapt to the current climate by opening biking and hiking routes or by focusing their attention on the summer season, but these efforts may not be able to compensate for a poor ski season (BBC).
There are a few temporary solutions to the various problems ski resorts are facing, namely artificial snow and glacier blanketing. However, unfortunately, making artificial snow requires large amounts of water—one of Switzerland’s largest ski resorts could see an 80 percent increase in water consumption by 2100—and temperatures must be near or below freezing. The other solution, covering glaciers with reflective blankets, has been shown to reduce snowmelt by around 50 to 70 percent, but the machines that lay down these blankets are polluting and the process is expensive (BBC).
It is important to note that the ski resort business itself has a significant carbon footprint. The process of making artificial snow releases CO2 into the atmosphere, and snow cannons and plows require a large input of energy (Smithsonian Magazine). To make matters worse, skiers are spending hours in traffic when traveling to resorts, and much of the luxury clientele at ski resorts fly privately, emitting more CO2 (NPR). Nevertheless, ski resorts are trying to implement eco-friendly practices to mitigate their footprint. This includes providing free public transportation and relying on renewable sources of energy, or even supporting climate-friendly policies and investing in composting (BBC; The Washington Post). As climate change begins to impact more and more aspects of our lives, we really see the importance of finding and implementing solutions to the climate crisis.