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Monday October 24, 2016 - Email this article to a friend

Resorts need to develop other activities to skiing, boost their summer visitors, retain existing skiers and attract young people. That's according to a new international report that paints a bleak picture ahead. NEW

In one of the biggest surveys of its kind researchers from 5 alpine countries looked into their crystal balls to see what things might be like in the future.

They worked for 7 months from March - August 2016 consulting more than 250 pieces of written information and studies, while speaking to 90 experts in the snowsports industry and areas that affect it.

The conclusions do not make happy reading for skiers and snowboarders.

The average air temperature at 2,100m in the Alps is expected to rise by 2c over the course of this century and this will have a significant impact on some ski resorts, especially those at low altitude, according to the report.

Other factors are also leading to people are turning their backs on snowsports.

Only at altitude?Only at altitude?
















The findings were unveiled earlier this month at a pan-European snowsports industry conference, the Alps 2016, that was held in Innsbruck in Austria.

PlanetSKI was in the specially invited audience.

















The European snowsports industry accounts for 386m overnight stays and that represents 14.4% of all overnight stays in the EU.

A further 126m overnight stays are by people with second homes.

Overall this means a fifth of overnight stays are in alpine regions.

Alpine tourism is big business.

Austria claims to be the most popular alpine destination with 51 million skier days.

France has 38m, Italy 29m and Switzerland 25m.

The Alps The Alps














86% of the largest ski resorts in the world are in the Alps with 10,080 ski lifts in its mountains.

However the projected rise in temperatures over the following decades is expected to have a severe impact on snowsports according to the report.

Falling snow levels Falling snow levels














Shape of things to come?Shape of things to come?















Delegates were told that diversifying is the key to continued mountain tourism.

In the winter this means alternative activities to skiing such as hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, toboganning and wellness.

Ski resorts will also need to boost their summer business.

"Summer will become more and more important and in the end will support the winter," said one of the authors of the report, Professor Harald Pechlaner.

The Alps The Alps
















Climate change is happening already for many resorts and they are responding.

"We are just a small resort and already winter walking and snowshoeing are taking over from skiing," Ronald Pettrini the CEO of the small Tirolean resort of Reutte to PlanetSKI.

At the other end of the scale the town of Interlaken in Switzerland is also diversifying its offering to keep existing visitors happy and bring in new ones.

Ice attractions in InterlakenIce attractions in Interlaken













"We built the Top off Europe Ice Magic three years ago with its ice skating, and fun activities to attract and retain new people to winter tourism," said Stefan Ryser from the Interlaken tourist board.

The Alps Pettrini 3rd from left,  Ryser 1st on the right















But some cast doubt on the conclusions from the conference.

In the audience was Arjen de Graak from the specialist off piste web site WePowder.

He was concerned about some of the negativity in the survey and the belief that young people are not engaging in the sport.

"Snow will always fall and freeriders will always find it but we recognise things are changing and advise people to book as late as possible to find the best conditions in the mountains. Freeriding is one of the fastest growing areas of snowsports so it is wrong to say young people are turning their backs on skiing and snowboarding," said Arjen to PlanetSKI.

Arjen de Graaf, WePowderArjen de Graaf, WePowder



















"There will still be autumn and spring skiing here in the Tirol and much in between in the decades to come. Of course snow security will be an issue, especially for the lower resorts, but alpine skiing has a bright future ahead and people will always want to ski and snowboard," said the Head of International marketing for the Tirol, Holger Gassler.

Holger Gassler, Tirol Tourist BoardHolger Gassler, Tirol Tourist Board
















The Tirol sees 60% of its business in the winter months with an even higher proportion of revenue as people buy lift passes, rent or buy equipment and simply spend more cash.

The Alps The Alps
















One of the key areas covered in the report was what people in the snowsports industry can do to combat climate change.

"Sustainability is the key and we must look after the environment to boost the winter economy," said another of the report's authors, Professor Ralf Roth, Head of the Institute for Nature-Sport and Ecology at the German Sports College in Cologne.

80% of the environmental impact of snowsports comes from travel to the resort according to the survey.

The report urged for greater purchasing of local products to reduce transport costs and people choosing more environmentally ways to get to their ski resort of choice.

It called on greater emphasis on green developments and reducing CO2 emissions.

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

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