Mountain Journal often covers developments in the snow industry relating to climate change – both in terms of the expected impacts of global warming on snow and resorts, and positive responses by resorts to reduce their emissions.
As we know, action here in Australia by resorts is sketchy at best and most are still in denial about the reality of the change that is coming.
This recent piece by Bob Berwyn from Deutsche Welle (Germany’s international broadcaster) looks at the limitations of relying on artificial snow making as a buffer against climate change. Looking mostly at Europe, the key message is really just common sense – it will be the lower altitude resorts that will be hit first. That’s directly applicable to the reality that Australian resorts face given our low elevation mountains and moderate latitudes.
The story notes:
Ski resorts around the world have already installed miles of water pipes and built reservoirs and pumps so they can make their own snow. Water is vaporized by thousands of high-pressure nozzles and freezes into a crystalline form that’s almost like the real thing.
Ski area operators have become snow farmers. Before the season starts, they use the snow guns to make big piles of snow in strategic spots on the mountain. Later, snow grooming machines distribute and smooth it out.
Conservation organizations like the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), have fiercely criticized snowmaking because of its energy consumption and disruption of ecosystems like tundra and streams.
And some sustainably oriented mountain resort communities have rejected it in favor of a “soft tourism”.
The story also contains some great quotes and some truth from Jamie Shectman of the Mountain Riders Alliance. MRA describes itself as ‘group of like-minded people dedicated to making a positive change in the ski area industry, as well as supporting the environment and surrounding communities’. Its most recent project is the Mountain Playground Group, designed to ‘assist community and independent ski areas to be more viable. This entrepreneurial and collaborative approach will allow stand alone ski areas a better chance of survival by working together’.
Climate change is probably outpacing our technical capabilities to adapt, so slowing and stopping warming should be the priority.
“There’s a total disconnect between our sport and what’s happening with climate change,” Shectman told DW. “We know it’s a high impact sport. From a karma perspective, the ski industry should be at the fore of the fight against global warming,” he says.
Instead of energy-hogging sources of greenhouse gas pollution, ski resorts should become self-sufficient producers of wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, Shectman says, describing his involvement in developing a solar power project at Mt. Abrams Ski Area, in Maine”.
Previous stories about Mt Abrams on Mountain Journal can be found here.