Climate change hits Swiss ski resorts

2nd October 2016, by Abi Butcher

Even ski resorts such as Zermatt receive nearly 40 days less snow than in 1970

Even ski resorts such as Zermatt receive nearly 40 days less snow than in 1970

Ski resorts in Switzerland are losing their snow according to a new study published last week. Even those ski resorts at high altitude such as Zermatt and Saas-Fee are experiencing nearly 40 fewer snow days each season than they did in the 1970s.

The Swiss study, published in the Climatic Change journal, was carried out jointly by the Institute for the Study of Snow and Avalanches (SLF), the University of Neuchâtel and the Federal Institute for Research on Forests, Snow and the Countryside (WSL).

It found that between 1970 and 2015, ski seasons have becoming significantly shorter, with snow arriving 12 days later and disappearing from resorts 25 days earlier than 45 years ago. The decrease represents and average loss of 8.9 days a decade, and 37 snow days overall.

The study showed that high-altitude ski resorts such as Zermatt and Saas-Fee keep their snow during the winter months better than lower-altitude resorts, due to colder temperatures, but it found that during autumn and spring the decline in snow coverage is the same in both.

Maximum snow depth has also reduced by 25 per cent since 1970 — and climate change is to blame, say researchers, who warn that the situation will have a serious impact on the water levels in Switzerland, as well as tourism. If the situation continues, skiing before Christmas and during the spring is becoming increasingly precarious.

Project leader Professor Martine Rebetez, a climatologist at WSL, told Swiss newspaper The Local: “What we have seen is that [snow decline] is perfectly coupled with the temperature increase. So it will totally depend on how much temperatures will increase in the coming decades. As we are not doing anything at this point to reduce climate change then the snow [decrease] will just follow the temperature increase.”


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