News ID: 187818
Published: 0106 GMT February 17, 2017

Skiing 'will be impossible in Alps within 80 years'

Skiing 'will be impossible in Alps within 80 years'

Skiing at many resorts in the Alps could become impossible within the next 80 years, according to a new study. Researchers predict snow cover across the Alps will fall by at least a third by the end of the century, leaving low-lying resorts without snow.

They warn the ski season could also be up to a month shorter than it is at present, reported.

If global temperatures increase more than 2°C by 2100, the amount of snow could drop by up to 70 percent, they say. 

Only the very highest ski resorts with slopes above 8,202 feet (2,500m) would get enough snow to stay open. 

This would mean only high altitude areas like the French resorts of Val Thorens in the Three Valleys and Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix could be relied upon to get enough snow. 

The findings come after a poor start to the 2016/17 ski season, with many Alpine resorts struggling with little snow in December. 

Recent flurries have meant conditions have improved but scientists  at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos, Switzerland, warn that the bad start to the season could become a far more frequent pattern in future. 

Sebastian Schlögl, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the Institute, said: “Since many Alpine villages are heavily dependent on winter tourism, the economy and society of regions with such tourism centres will suffer.” 

The study, published in the European Geoscience Union journal The Cryosphere, used computer models to examine what would happen to snowfall in the mountains as global temperatures rise.

Under current climate change predictions the world is set to warm by more than 2°C unless action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

As temperatures rise, winter rainfall across mountainous regions of Europe is expected to rise. There has been uncertainty, however, over how rising temperatures would impact snowfall. 

The new research suggests even if global warming is restricted to 2°C, snow cover will fall by 30 percent by 2100. The Alpine winter season will also start between half a month to a month later than at present. 

Increased rainfall could also mean more ice in those slopes that do get snow. 

Outside winter the lower snowfall could mean glaciers in the Alps continue to recede and river flows will change dramatically. 

Schlögl said: “This will not only impact the ecology, but also the management of water for irrigation, power production or shipping.”

Their study also showed the most affected slopes and resorts will be those below 3,937 feet (1,200m), where there will be almost no continuous snow cover by the end of the century.

Around a quarter of the ski resorts in the Alps are located below this altitude.

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