By Georgia Lambert via SWNS
Ski tourism is on a downward slope as winter holiday resorts struggle to weather the ongoing impact of climate change, warns new research.
A Staffordshire University graduate Rachael Carver started investigating the impacts of melting snow and ice on the future of the ski tourism industry, after going on holiday.
The study was based on field research that Rachael undertook in the European Alps for her dissertation.
The geography graduate student worked with Professor Fiona Tweed to highlight how the resorts have been introducing a range of measures to prolong the ski season, including glacier blankets and artificial snow.
Ms. Carver explained: “At university, I developed a passion for understanding human interaction with the environment and the importance of climate change.
“I visited the Stubai Glacier in Austria on holiday and was intrigued by the fact that they were trying to conserve the ski industry. It left me asking lots of questions so I decided to go back and learn more.”
She said the site used protective blankets to reduce the amount of melting ice and wind erosion.
When transitioning from winter to summer tourism, Rachael noted that new attractions started popping up like playgrounds and viewing platforms.
She then surveyed tourists and, despite the environmental changes, 70 percent said that they would return to the site if the glaciers were not there.
The same people said that instead of skiing, they would visit the mountains, take up hiking opportunities and appreciate the scenery instead.
This resort is not alone, as sites around the world are using similar strategies and many rely on snow machines to keep up the facade of a winter wonderland all season long.
However, the use of most snow and ice generation and conservation measures are caught up in the loop of unsustainability, consuming energy that contributes to the climate crisis.
Rachael said: “At the rate we’re losing glaciers, doing nothing is not an option for these industries. There will be a lot of people adversely affected by the economic impact of not having this tourism.
“It was interesting seeing different solutions to the issue. Most places understand that these practices aren’t a long-term solution, but it is buying them time.
“I think adaption is key. Yes, they were designed as ski resorts but they can be turned into something else with a little bit of foresight and planning.”
Rachael believes that resorts should provide visitors with the opportunity to explore mountain environments in different ways.
For example, by introducing hiking routes, mountain bike trails, viewing platforms, and educational attractions.
The research also explored more innovative solutions to skiing on snow such as grass skiing - a sport which is particularly popular in the Czech Republic, where there is often only one month of reliable snow each year.
Professor Tweed said: “It was a pleasure to collaborate with Rachael to get her undergraduate research published.
“I worked with her as I would any research co-worker; we drafted an outline plan together and had regular meetings to review progress and share ideas.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time with many far-reaching impacts and implications.”
The professor, who teaches physical geography continued: “Several students in Rachael’s year group did projects that had climate change at their core. We’re looking forward to equipping more students with the skills to work on climate change-related issues as part of our new BSc (Hons) Climate Change and Society degree.”
After completing her degree with first-class honours Rachael now works as a Geospatial Technician with the Coal Authority.
Her findings were published in the prestigious scientific journal Geography.
She added: “Having my dissertation research published is something that I never imagined would happen! I feel really privileged to have had Fiona help me – she has been a great support and is the one who made me go for it.
“My lecturers also helped motivate me to do a Masters degree and supported me in applications for jobs which led to my current role at the Coal Authority.”
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