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The climatic future for European skiing

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
One section of the MICE report on the impact of global temperature change (A 3 year study by scientists from 8 countries) predict a 20 - 30% reduction in snow depth in the Alps by 2020.
post #2 of 21
Fear not, when it's all gone there'll always be Milton Keynes. :
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
.. ..
post #4 of 21
I just saw a Doomsday Tech series on History Channel that suggests polar ice melt from global warming will decrease the salinity of the under oceanic current bringing warm water from the equator. In turn this will stop this current and plunge Europe into another Ice Age. The series pointed out that most of Europe is on the same latitude as Siberia. Looks like some great skiing is in store for Scotland.
post #5 of 21
There are articles and reports on this issue appearing almost regularly. Up to now it seems that modern snowmaking is able to keep pace with the temperature rise. Generally, the snow situation is probably somewhat worse than it used to be but for a typical skiing visitor it´s no tragedy so far.
post #6 of 21
"Predictions are very difficult, especially when they are about the future." (quote attributed to Milton Friedman). Not so long ago, in the 1970's, the doomsday scenario du jour was another ice age.
post #7 of 21
There is an article in SKi Canada from last year talking about global warming and how it's affecting the Snow season in Europe. It talks about how some of the slopes are becomeing unpredicable and getting snow later in the season then they used to.
post #8 of 21
That "crossover" between alpine and grass skiing may start to occur more frequently - like several times during one run!
post #9 of 21
Sounds like my first visit to Saalbach...
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yesguy!
There is an article in SKi Canada from last year talking about global warming and how it's affecting the Snow season in Europe. It talks about how some of the slopes are becomeing unpredicable and getting snow later in the season then they used to.
Yes, "unpredicable" is good characteristics. It has some rather serious consequences. I don´t aspire to a full list here and now and just want to mention two:

(i) ski vacation planning, decrease of skiers, loss of image:
You find snow conditions poor once, twice. The third time you say "why not try some warm country instead" and fly to some exotic destination. The moment you like it there you might be lost as a skier. Not just you. The whole family including children.. and possibly their children... etc. You talk your friends into the "better sun than snow" type of winter vacation...

(ii) ski racing and TV:
TV needs planning. They hate changes and improvisations, canceled and postponed races.

It´s a hell planning races on lower levels and with young racers.

Later season start is bad. Most European resorts (not Scandinavia) start as late as the first weekend in December but it´s sometimes only in January that the snow conditions, at least on the groomers thanks to snowmaking, are really good. This concentrates more people into the reletively short main "high" season, resulting in crowded slopes and trails.
Less snow means a heavy blow to any off-piste activities, e.g. freeriding. It´s nice that snowmaking lets you have perfectly covered slopes but it´s no real winter atmosphere.
Etc. etc.
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by checkracer
(i) ski vacation planning, decrease of skiers, loss of image:
"Decrease in skier numbers" or something like that would be better.
Retention rate is another term belonging here.
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
The snow loss so far may not have changed the options much yet in the Alps (though the retreat of the glaciers year by year is extremely visible), but it has nearly destroyed Scotland as a (very small-scale) ski destination.

As for the Ice-age results of the possible loss of the cold, sinking layer of the Atlantic conveyor, the effect will depend when it happens. If it happens relatively soon it will create an ice age locally around here (or, rather, give us the climate we should otherwise have in this latitude). This would presumably combine somehow with the general (if localised) increase in world rainfall expected from increased evaporation from the sea - possibly giving us lots of snow?
On the other hand, if it happens later it may just negate part of the effect of heat-up.
(Or anything in between.)
post #13 of 21
The key short term impact of warming is the rise of the rain/snow line. This is an issue in Europe because most ski areas have big verticals and the resort towns are low. It didn't bother me at Chamonix and Verbier because nearly all the skiing I was doing was up higher, but it can mess up end of the day logistics if everyone has to download. So I can see some casual skiers being put off by the inconvenience.

Here in North America the verticals are smaller and nearly all the resort bases are higher. Snowmaking is keeping up fine here, even at Whistler, which is the only big-vertical/low resort analogy we have. And Whistler gets way more snow than anywhere in the Alps. Whistler's poor midseason in 2004-05 was primarily due to the unusual drought from late January to mid-March. The alpine still had a snowpack after the Tropical Punch, so skiing was fine once snowfall resumed in late March and April.
post #14 of 21
I might point out that htere are a number of lower elevation resorts other than Whistler, including several that would be classified as "big vertical". Many of the PNW (and Alaska) areas would be hit hard by a rise in snow level. Most of those do not make snow, and making snow in the future is not an option.

Whistler reports 9.14m on average, compared to Chamonix which reports 9.6m.

Climatic change for the PNW is forecast to bring wetter, warmer winters. Bad news for us as well.

As far as dismissing the issue as "doomsday", it is difficult to do so when the ill effects are at hand.
post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker
The key short term impact of warming is the rise of the rain/snow line. This is an issue in Europe because most ski areas have big verticals and the resort towns are low. It didn't bother me at Chamonix and Verbier because nearly all the skiing I was doing was up higher, but it can mess up end of the day logistics if everyone has to download. So I can see some casual skiers being put off by the inconvenience.
Yes, I agree. A lot of traditional resorts are situated rather low. They are old cities and villages, populated earlier than skiing emerged, and later transformed into tourist centers.
While it would not be good for the image of Kitzbuhel to have to cancel the traditional Hahnenkamm with the finnish where it is now, the simple fact that you can´t ski as low as to the parking lot in the city is technically not such a problem: you simply use the lift, gondola, or tram the way you do when skiing on a glacier later in spring or early in the fall. Not the best option but possible.
Otoh, I would not say that "most areas have big verticals". Maybe most of those typically frequented by overseas visitors. There are smaller places with limited verticals and some of them are out of play already. (The main reason is, of course, they can´t offer what the big can and have very limited funds.) Some survive because they joined bigger ones and formed megaresorts.

As a result, the number of small and relatively inexpensive "family resorts" decreases. There are more and more giants. They often consist of a number of smaller places but not always offer a local lift ticket.

You´d be surprised how little snow some valleys in the Alps have, even in heights over 1000 meters. It´s even worse in northern Italy (Sudtirol - Alto Adige, the Dolomites) but they are lucky enough to have enough cold days to produce sufficient quantities of snow and had - unlike France - foresight to expand snowmaking almost as much as needed.

Besides, there are other mountains than the Alps: in Germany, Central and East European countries, even France. Scotland is another example mentioned here. They are all lower and even more endangered though there are not so many people dependent on winter tourists and skiers as in the Alps.
post #16 of 21
I guess i should have mentioned that the article said that Canada's Skiing has benifeted from it because we have a very perdicatble season and are ready to go befroe most hills in Europe. I love Skiing so that sucks for anyone in Europe, to wait that much longer to hit the hills would kill me.
post #17 of 21
Maybe a couple of more hurricane seasons and the Bush brothers will figure out there is something to this global warming?
post #18 of 21
hopefully someone can finish this rather vague memory...
... I was reading in maybe Ski Mag or similiar publication within the past 3 years that a European resort that had what I believe was a year round snow cave that had to be walked through to get to the slopes after leaving the tram, had melted. It had been there for as long as people could remember and sometime in the past few years it melted away.?
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yesguy!
I guess i should have mentioned that the article said that Canada's Skiing has benifeted from it because we have a very perdicatble season and are ready to go befroe most hills in Europe. I love Skiing so that sucks for anyone in Europe, to wait that much longer to hit the hills would kill me.
If you love skiing that much you don´t have to wait that much longer. You may start your season at the end of September on some glacier when usually the first new snow comes.
There are still some glaciers in operation over the summer so that, if you don´t mind the inconvenience and sometimes only 2-3 hours of good skiing, you even can have an all-year-round season.

As to the case RJP describes I don´t know. I can imagine the mechanics of such spectacular changes, though.
It mostly happens when the old ice, now thin, breaks. Once it´s separated from the main body it might be a fast process, like rests of snow melting away in the spring.
That´s what happened on the Kaunertal Glacier in the hot summer 2003. Some smaller glacier "tongues" became separated and were literally carried away by water after some rains. It destroyed the last part (about 120 yards) of a run leading to one of the lifts. The lift itself survived because they are all anchored in the ground.
It was not just "melting away" but a combination of reasons. I don´t know but think that the case described must have had similar reasons.

The changes don´t appear dramatic if you are a regular. It´s like people changing: those you see every day vs. schoolmates after 20 years.
I met two people on the glacier this June who were shocked: one hasn´t been there for 20 years, the other for 13.

In "normal" ski resorts without glacier it´s up to snowmaking and the conditions in the respective winter. This year, some parts of north-eastern Alps had record snowfall (I think extremecarver reported here in some winter thread) and our mountains had a perfect season as well. It´s just not reliable, that´s true.
post #20 of 21
I was addressing the warming issue with respect to the big destination resorts. I don't think Whistler has any problem in the short-to-intermediate term because most of the skiing is high enough.

Harry Morgan's point about other PNW areas was illustrated by the past season when, unlike the Whistler alpine, Washington State's snowpack was washed away by the Tropical Punch. I think Snoqualmie Summit is perhaps the first North American area to be materially impacted by warming. Over the past several years, I see a consistent pattern in on-line reports of worse conditions than at Crystal and Stevens, where the base is 1,000 feet higher. The Westwide Network data sheets I have from 1979-1995 show Snoqualmie with more snowfall than Crystal, but I would be surprised if that is true now.

I see no evidence elsewhere in North America. Here in Southern California we have ski areas that are lower than they ought to be for good snow preservation, and we do get some "Tropical Punches" too, most recently last January 9-11. But I've been keeping records here for 30 years http://bestsnow.net/scalhist.htm , and the frequency of good ski conditions here (very erratic) is on average about the same as when I started skiing then.

I am not familiar with them, but I am not surprised that areas in Europe with small verticals above their towns are starting to have problems. Scotland might be an analogy to Snoqualmie with marine climate but insufficient altitude.
post #21 of 21
Snoqualamie Summit is not the only area to be seriously affected. All areas in Western Washington with the exception of Mt. Baker suffered losses this past season. Mt Baker did well, largely because it was the only area south of Whistler that was open more or less all season. Hurricane Ridge never opened at all. I don't believe Mt. Washington, Grouse or Seymour in BC opened at all last season either. Many other small areas in BC likewise suffered terribly.
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