Climate change exacerbates snow-water-energy challenges for European ski tourism

Publikation aus Life
Wetter- und Klimarisikomanagement, Institutsdirektor, Stab

Hugues François, Raphaëlle Samacoïts, David Neil Bird, Judith Köberl, Franz Prettenthaler, Samuel Morin

Nature Climate Change 13(9), 8/2023


Ski tourism is a substantial component of the economy of mountainous regions in Europe and is highly vulnerable to snow scarcity, which is increasing due to climate change. However, the climate change snow supply risk to ski tourism has not been quantified in a consistent way throughout Europe, including the influence and environmental footprint of snowmaking. Here we show that the snow supply risk to ski tourism increases with global warming level, heterogeneously within and across mountain areas and countries. Without snowmaking, 53% and 98% of the 2,234 ski resorts studied in 28 European countries are projected to be at very high risk for snow supply under global warming of 2 °C and 4 °C, respectively. By contrast, assuming a snowmaking fractional coverage of 50% leads to corresponding proportions of 27% and 71%, but with increasing water and electricity demand (and related carbon footprint) of snowmaking. While it represents a modest fraction of the overall carbon footprint of ski tourism, snowmaking is an inherent part of the ski tourism industry and epitomizes some of the key challenges at the nexus between climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development in the mountains, with their high social-ecological vulnerability.