Skiing In The Alps: The Death Spiral of Artificial Snow

For many ski resorts, especially those in Europe, skiing is not so much a winter activity as it is an activity that takes place on one day in February. Yes, there are some operational challenges such as making sure lifts and gondolas can handle the weight of all that snow and don’t simply snap in half from the pressure of being so full of it. But, more and more, ski resorts are turning to artificial snow as a way to keep the slopes white all season long. In fact, Europe produced so much artificial snow last winter that they nearly made up for their lack of natural snowfall.

Artificial Snow
Artificial Snow

However, on an environmental level there is much debate over the impact of making artificial snow. First, it takes a lot of energy to make fake-snow out of nothing but air and water vapor. On average, one ski resort requires around 4,000 liters (roughly 1,050 gallons) of manmade snow just to cover an acre of land . That’s twice as much as is required to cover an acre of cropland. The process not only requires a lot of water, it creates lots of dirty wastewater as well .

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Then there is the issue over where all that snow ends up when the ski season comes to a close. You see, artificial snow is made by taking real snow and putting it in recycling machines that strip off the water and turn it into a powder. This snow-powder is then added to water and air until there is enough of it to cover ski trails. Once used, this manmade snow is simply dumped in the local environment . For Europe, this means dumping all that artificial snow somewhere on the Alps.

Unfortunately, one solution to the piling up of artificial snow is to simply dump it in local rivers and lakes. This seems like an obvious problem, but there are a lot of people in favor of this idea because it prevents the manmade powder from building up on ski trails . In fact, natural snow can sometimes be better for skiing than man-made snow when it’s compacted and dirty from being set on the ground for so long . Unfortunately, dumping all that powder into lakes and rivers does pose several environmental risks such as clouding up waters or killing off plant and animal life.

Ski In The Alps Industry Problems

Unfortunately, things seem to be going from bad to worse in the ski industry. At a time when ski resorts are scrambling to make artificial snow, demand for the sport has plummeted . 

This is partly due to the increase in popularity of other winter activities like ice skating and curling. But it’s also because skiing got too popular for its own good. When skiing first arrived on the scene, only a small group of people were sustainable and able to afford it. Then skiing became a status symbol and everyone wanted to do it, but not everyone could due to its high price-tag. So more people took up skiing than could actually afford the equipment they needed for it .

Now that the industry is struggling to deal with sudden popularity, most ski resorts are finding themselves in trouble. On top of that, ski resorts are struggling to make enough money in order to keep the slopes open during the off season when customers aren’t flocking over.

As you can imagine, these factors work together like a perfect storm for the skiing industry . First, there is less money coming in because there is less demand for skis and ski gear . But, on top of that, there are also fewer people skiing so ski resorts receive less money from the people who do buy skis and gear . Then they still have to pay for all that manmade snow during the off season. While it doesn’t cost as much to make snow when compared to natural snowfall, it’s still an overwhelming financial burden that resorts struggle to cover .

Not only are ski resorts struggling with the costs of maintaining their slopes all year round, they’re also struggling with the environmental impact of artificial snow. While some resorts think dumping their manmade powder in rivers is an acceptable solution, others in favor for finding more eco-friendly alternatives. Unfortunately, resort owners can’t find a clear answer to the problem. 

What’s a Ski Resort In The Alps Owner To Do?

In an effort to get ahead of their problems, ski resorts are turning towards alternative energy sources to help them create artificial snow all year round . In fact, many resorts have even built wind turbines on site that provide power for their snow-making machines.

Unfortunately, wind turbines don’t generate enough power to produce man-made snow for the entire season. And that’s not even considering the fact that these machines can only make snow when it’s cold enough outside . Even if resorts did find a way to get around this problem, there are other factors like freezing temperatures and low humidity which need to be just right in order to make quality snow.

According to Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, “I think for a low-energy resort—and that’s most resorts—it’s going to be very difficult. We’re not saying it’s not doable because we just don’t know.” Even though there are challenges when it comes to making artificial snow, there are also plenty of ways for resorts to get around the problem.

First of all, ski resorts can lower their costs by re-evaluating their budgets and spending less money on equipment, employees and maintaining slopes during the off season. On top of that, they can get creative with how they use their resources. For example, one ski resort in Vermont gets its water by harvesting the condensation from their air conditioners. Not only do they recycle their own condensation, but they also use it to make snow rather than letting it go to waste .

Another strategy resorts are using is creating manmade slopes. No, they’re not doubling down on the number of slopes they have, but moving snow machines closer to the ground so that skiers can experience man-made powder on runs with lower elevations.

While it’s hard to pin down where exactly this trend is going, skiing in the Alps may become a more eco-friendly activity . While resorts are likely not going back to natural snow anytime soon, they may be able to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve artificial snow .

And that sounds like a win for the environment and skiing in the Alps overall.

skiing in the alps vs skiing in Japan

While skiing in the Alps is a more eco-friendly activity, the mountains in Japan are far from it. In fact, these slopes aren’t even technically mountains. That’s because they’re manmade and only about 20-30 feet tall . Despite their small size, these mountains are ideal for beginners or people looking to take a break from skiing in the Alps.

But it’s not just Japan defenders who see the appeal of the country’s miniature mountains; others have dubbed them “Alps Jr.” and “heaven to ski in.” They’re also a great place for people who like skiing but don’t love it, as well as those who are trying the sport out for the first time.

Another perk of these slopes is that they can actually be good if you’re starting from scratch. Unlike natural slopes where there’s no such thing as an easy run, Japan’s mountains are much flatter than Alps slopes.

So if you’re newer to skiing in the Alps, this might be an exciting change of pace. Plus, it’s always nice to have the option to go big or small depending on your mood .

And if you find yourself thoroughly frustrated by these smaller mountains, there’s still a wide variety of slopes to try in Japan. In fact, there have been claims that these mountains are just the tip of the iceberg for skiing in Japan .

In any case, it seems skiing in the Alps will soon have some competition from its smaller counterpart. The question is: will this lead to more people opting for man-made mountains rather than the Alps?

Alps skiing season

We can’t tell you when this season is going to start, but we do have insight into when it’s going to end. In many cases, ski resorts in the Alps stay open through May or even June since they make snow all year round. But if you want to be sure that your favorite slopes are skiing in the alps during those months, you’ll have to give them a call or visit their website.

In any case, even if the ski lifts are shut down, there’s still plenty of opportunity for skiing in the Alps. For one thing, many resorts stay open after peak season as a way to attract tourists during the low season . In some cases, they also host summer skiing events .

When you add in the fact that there are a variety of manmade slopes, skiers and snowboarders alike could have plenty of opportunities to hit the slopes. In other words, even if you don’t live in an area with skiing in the alps, it doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities for you to find some snow.

At the end of the day, it’s more than feasible to find skiing in the Alps if you want to enjoy this sport so long as you’re willing to do a little research and maybe even plan your vacation in advance .

After all, the more you know about where to find skiing in the Alps, the easier it will be for you to get out there and hit the slopes.

If you’re ready to go skiing in the Alps this winter , make sure you feel confident you’ll have a good time by visiting our website for more information. After all, while nothing beats skiing in the Alps, you shouldn’t have to choose between it and another location just because you don’t live near the real thing!

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