With Less Snow, Ski Resorts Seek Wholly Different Clientele

Some ski resorts are shifting their business models to include biking
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2023 4:20 PM CDT
Ski Resorts Plan for a Future Without Key Element: Snow
With less snowfall, some ski resorts are shifting their business model   (Getty / kvv515kvv)

As ski resorts across Europe grapple with warmer winters, some have seen a future in ditching skis for mountain bikes. Wired reports that Italian resort Fai della Paganella originally outfitted a chairlift to accommodate bikes in 2011 as an experiment, but the attraction quickly eclipsed its skiing business. "Sixty-five percent of our visitors now come outside of the ski season—between April and November," says the resort's destination manager. Other resorts have found the model appealing, concurs Felix Saller, an entrepreneur who transformed a family resort in Germany to outfit mountain biking. It had essentially been dead for a decade due to a lack of snow; Saller projects they'll attract 60,000 mountain bikers during the 2023 season.

CNN Travel shares a similar story, just minus the positive ending: A resort in La Sambuy, France, decided to close up shop after getting only four weeks of snow last year and staring down a potential operating loss of more than $500,000. "Before, we used to have snow practically from the first of December up until the 30th of March," said La Sambuy mayor Jacques Dalex. Locally, there's still hope that the town's scenic hiking and natural beauty will continue to draw visitors. CNN Travel says that there's an estimated 106 abandoned ski lifts across France, while an environmental group has officially dismantled 22 in just over 20 years.

And if warming continues, things will only get worse. According to an August paper in Nature Climate Change, the "snow supply risk" for 98% of the 2,234 European ski resorts examined was marked "very high" if the global average temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius. If temperatures rise by 2 degrees (a threshold likely to be surpassed mid-century), over half of the resorts examined would still struggle to maintain natural snow cover. Many resorts across Europe already rely on making artificial snow, which Wired notes takes a lot of water and energy—"contributing to the crisis it's designed to solve." (Read more climate change stories).

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