Climate change may mean 70% less snow by 2099 for alpine ski resorts

Dozens of low alpine resorts may only have a few days a year with enough snow to ski.

children skiing
(c) flickr/Ola Matsson
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It’s been a poor start to the ski season thanks to scanty snow this year. Thankfully, skiers are now enjoying good snow fall, but they should make the most of it as it may not last.

The Alps could lose 70 per cent of their snow cover by the end of the century, according to climate change experts.

The ski season may not only be delayed for up to a month longer than usual, but finish up to three months earlier as greenhouse gas emissions keep temperatures rising.

And even when there is enough snow, skiers may have to climb higher to get to it as the snow line – the level at which you find permanent snow – rises by up to 1,000m above the level it is at now.

Snow levels are already notoriously hard to predict, varying not only from season to season but month-to-month. Many skiers are already resigned to seeking out the highest-altitude resorts to be sure of enough snow.

Winter ski season delayed for the third year running

It’s all reported in a study on Alpine climate change published in the European Geosciences Union’s magazine, The Cryosphere.

And it comes after the Alpine winter ski season was delayed for the third year running. December saw many skiers and snowboarders having to make do with ribbons of artificial snow sprayed over green fields.

Ski resorts have been taking all sorts of action to tackle the problem for some time. Some have invested in sophisticated snow making equipment. Others have even begun moving snow around to make best use of what they do have.

Even the usually reliable resort of Tignes in France has begun making plans to for a year-round indoor slope.

However, it may not all be doom and gloom

Swiss scientists behind the study say that, if efforts to control emissions continue apace and have managed to halve green house emissions by 2050, global warming would be remain below 2ºC and loss of snow cover down to only 30 per cent.

And, if California is anything to go by, a few bad winters may not mean the trend will continue in the short-term.

After low-snow seasons in 2014 and 2015, the current one has seen unusually heavy falls and resorts there plan to stay open until after July 4.

The Squaw Valley resort, for example, had the best snow for 45 years and snowfalls in Mammoth Mountain broke an all-time record for a single month.


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