Winter is dying. The question now is how many ski seasons lie ahead

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That “any time in the past was better” could take on prophetic overtones for ski fans. If you like to take your board, poles and jacket and make a little getaway to the mountain passes to slide through the snow, take advantage. Perhaps in not many years it will be much more difficult for you to do so. The experts say so. And with hard data on the table. The same global warming that has already forced the European institutions to set decarbonisation goals, promotes the spread of diseases and leaves its mark on natural disasters, threatens to blur winters as we know them. And with them, the snow.

It is not a warning, nor a warning of the legacy that we will leave to other generations. No way. Is a reality that is already here and, studies warn, it threatens to worsen over time.

Proof that the problem is worrying, and a lot, is NIVOPYR, a project promoted by the Pyrenees Work Community (CTP) to precisely gauge the impact of climate change on the 49 most important alpine ski resorts in the mountain range and, at the same time, assess “adaptation strategies”. They don’t have much room left. In 2018 the Pyrenean Climate Change Observatory calculated that in 2030 the average annual maximum temperature in the area could be between one and 2.7 ºC higher than that recorded between 1961 and 1990, which would affect the snow.

A change that is already felt

“In the Central Pyrenees, at more than 1,800 meters above sea level, the average thickness of the snow could halve by 2050while the permanence of snow on the ground could be reduced by more than a month,” the experts concludedwhich painted a very unflattering scenario for ski fans and the entire industry that revolves around mountain tourism and sports: “The snow that covers the Pyrenees will disappear as we move towards 2050”.

The situation, remember the diary Information, it will be even more alarming in lower altitude areas. In those located below 1,500 meters, the loss over the last quarter of the century could reach 78%. The report published last year by the Ministry of Ecological Transition on the risks arising from climate change in Spain is forceful and warns that, in certain cases, the stations cannot be saved even with artificial snow cannons.

Beijing is only the beginning: almost no host city of the winter Olympics will have natural snow in 60 years

“The Spanish resorts below 2,000 meters could disappear or be converted to other tourist modalities due to lack or scarcity of snow. The resorts that have lower altitudes have a greater degree of vulnerability to climate change. Areas such as the Cantabrian Mountains have signs of increased vulnerability in contrast to areas such as the Catalan Pyrenees or the Penibetic System that present better results,” the study warns.

Precedents already exist. Almost a year ago the government agreed to dismantle of three ski slopes in Puerto de Navacerrada, considering that its management was simply not “viable”. When announcing the decision, the Executive pointed directly to climate change. Over the last half century, the temperature in the area increased by almost two degrees, the minimum increased by 0.77, the days of frost decreased and the snow fell by around 25%.

The Newspaper of Aragon also indicates another effect of climate change: less generous seasons, which take longer to start and add, altogether, fewer days in which there are more than 30 centimeters of snow cover. “These indicators, together with other studies of the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) On the availability of snow, they agree that by 2050 the snow cover above 1,800 meters of altitude will be reduced, in the most optimistic case, 60% with respect to the current value“, points out Juan Terrádez, technician of the Pyrenean observatory, to the diary.

Victoire Joncheray Wcpo65uqysm Unsplash

The problem is not only environmental, nor of course sports; It directly affects the economy of the regions that depend largely on travelers attracted by the mountains… and the snow, of course. “Tourism related to winter sports is the one that is already being most affected, especially in the case of ski resorts at lower levels due to the lack of snow, a situation that is expected to worsen even with more moderate climate scenarios” , describes the report of the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

In the case of Navacerrada, this social, economic and business dimension of the stations has already caused a clash between the Government and the Junta de Castilla y León, which came to file an appeal so he could open his tracks. According to Statista datain the 2018/2019 season —still free from the COVID effect— stations in Spain billed €122.1 million. In terms of employment, the facilities generate in Spain around 3,100 direct jobs.

Ski slopes next to the desert: how Beijing has achieved the first Olympics with 100% artificial snow

The challenge, of course, is not faced exclusively by the Pyrenees or the Cantabrian Mountains. Global warming goes beyond Spain or Europe. In Sapporo, Japan, one of the snowiest places on the planet, have recently encountered a problem that they had never had to face in the 70 years that they have been celebrating their Snow Festival: they simply did not have enough stock. They had to resort to trucks to bring the precious frozen powder from other mountainous regions. Something similar is happening in the mountains of the American West, which have lost 20% of their snow cover over the last five decades.

The question that the organizers of the Sapporo festival were then asking themselves and the one that many managers, workers and users of ski resorts around the world are probably asking themselves is: How many good snow seasons do we have left?

Images | Gary Ruiz (Unsplash) and Victoire Joncheray (Unsplash)

That “any time in the past was better” could take on prophetic overtones for ski fans. If you like to…

That “any time in the past was better” could take on prophetic overtones for ski fans. If you like to…

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