Climate Change Impacts Winter Tourism

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climate change impact winter tourism

Winter for many is synonymous with skiing and one of the most loved winter sports and recreation activities. In colder regions, skiing is a significant driver of its economy.

For example, in the Tyrol region of Austria, skiing accounts for 15% of its economic revenue.

However, studies show that this beloved winter activity is under threat due to climate change. Shifts in weather and a warming climate can affect snow reliability, and without it, ski resorts and other tourism businesses that they support can suffer.

Thanks to snowmaking, though a pricey solution, ski resorts can compensate for the lack of snow to allow skiing to continue.   

A study by Robert Steiger examined the effect of climate change on the length of the ski season and snowmaking to buffer climate change impacts or shifts in weather.

The study used a ski season simulation model, SkiSim 2.0, to model ski season length and predicted how much more snowmaking is required to compensate losses on three ski areas – St Johann, Patscherkofel, and Zillertal Arena. These ski areas also varied in elevation.

A 2007 study reveals that warming temperatures will likely shorten the ski season by a month because of climate change.

According to a study by Abegg in 1996 and Abegg et al. in 2007, the first in Europe to deal with climate change impacts on winter tourism, and the modelling results show that all three areas remain snow reliable.

Abegg used a so-called “100-days rule”, which states that ski areas can only operate successfully with a sufficient snow cover of 30 cm for at least 100 days at a mean altitude of the ski area. This rule has been the working tool and a standard that ski operators have been using.

With the help of snowmaking, the impacts of climate change on current ski lengths can be reduced but only up to a specific time. Steiger study shows that all three modelled ski areas will remain snow reliable until the 2040s to 2050s, and by this time, the use of snowmaking has already reached its limits. 

Furthermore, the study states that the required snow volume until the end of the century is projected to increase by up to 330%. Although snowmaking is a suitable climate adaptation strategy, it will not be a sustainable solution beyond the middle of this century.

There is a strong likelihood that climate change will destabilize winter tourism in the next decade. There are also factors that determine supply and demand that can strengthen or weaken the industry.

Additionally, the economic limits of snowmaking are yet to be fully understood, with a potential increase in operating cost affecting the profitability of snowmaking and the decision-making of skiers when climate change impacted ski resorts will be affected by climate change through shortened ski season due to insufficient snow.

To read the study, click the link below:

The impact of climate change on ski season length and snowmaking requirements in Tyrol, Austria

Another study by Daniel Scott and colleagues examines the close relationship between climate and tourism and how the environmental impacts of climate change can affect the tourism industry.  

The study highlights how weather and climate services can help tourism businesses, destinations, and even travellers and visitors adapt to climate change impacts and weather risk management.

For the sector to take full advantage of the climate information to assist the decision-making of businesses and tourists alike will require improved collaboration between policymakers, academe, private sectors (tourism businesses, meteorological service companies, and financial services), and communities.

Click the link to read the study:

Climate services to support sustainable tourism and adaptation to climate change.


Box, P. (2022, January 8). Ski Resorts and Climate Change. JSTOR Daily. Retrieved from

Steiger, R. (2010). The impact of climate change on ski season length and snowmaking requirements in Tyrol, Austria. Climate Research43(3), 251–262.

Scott, D. J., Lemieux, C. J., & Malone, L. (2011). Climate services to support sustainable tourism and adaptation to climate change. Climate Research47(1/2), 111–122.

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