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IS SKIING IN THE ALPS DOOMED? - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Friday February 17, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Europe's mountains could lose as much as 70 per cent of their snow cover by the end of the century, with winter sports possible only above 2,500 metres, according to research just published.

The study says global warming will have a big impact on the Alps. Just how much will depend on human intervention.

In the worst case, unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut, the mountains could lose almost three quarters of their snow.

It would mean that only the very highest European resorts with slopes above 2,500 metres would be guaranteed enough snow to stay open for skiing and snowboarding.

The research was carried out by scientists at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research and the CRYOS laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Switzerland.

It has been published in The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geosciences Union.

Val Thorens, FranceVal Thorens, France, has skiing up to 3230m













The study says that even above 3,000m, snow depth could be drastically reduced - by as much as 40 per cent.

Other conclusions are:

- a projected increase in winter precipitation but it may fall as rain rather than snow

- the ski season, when natural snow is sufficient for winter sports,  is set to become shorter, starting up to a month later

The research comes after a third successive poor start to the season, as many resorts struggled with poor natural snow cover until long into the New Year.

Many were heavily reliant on artificial snow, especially on the lower slopes, as we reported in early December and also in the week leading up to Christmas.

Verbier, SwitzerlandLooking down on Verbier, Switzerland, December 2016
















Sölden, AustriaSnow cannon in Sölden, Austria
















"The Alpine snow cover will recede anyway, but our future emissions control by how much," says research scientist and lead author Christoph Marty.

The doomsday scenario is based on the expected rise in global temperature of 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

If global warming can be kept below 2 degrees the figures are not so stark with the likely loss of snow cover limited to 30 rather than 70 per cent.

But even if we manage to cut damaging emissions, the researchers say the snow in the Alps will become less deep with almost no continuous snow cover below 1,200 metres towards the end of the century.

About a quarter of ski resorts in the Alps are below 1,200 metres.

"Since many Alpine villages are heavily dependent on winter tourism, the economy and society of regions with such tourism centres will suffer," says Sebastian Schlögl, a co-author of the paper.

"How much can we save? Impact of different emission scenarios on future snow cover in the Alps" was published on 16th February 2017 in The Cryosphere.  You can read more here.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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