The Disadvantages of Artificial Snowmaking for Ski Slopes

artificial snowmaking

artificial snowmaking

Artificial snowmaking is a common practice in ski resorts to ensure sufficient snow cover for skiing and snowboarding even when natural snowfall is scarce or nonexistent. However, this process has many drawbacks that outweigh its benefits. In this article, we will explore the environmental, economic and social impacts of artificial snowmaking and discuss whether it is worth it.

High water and energy consumption

water consumption in order to produce artificial snow
The water consumption in order to produce artificial snow

One of the main disadvantages of artificial snowmaking is its high demand for water and energy. One snow cannon consumes 80 to 500 liters of water per minute and 10 to 30 kilowatts of electrical energy per hour. To create one cubic meter of artificial snow, 250 to 500 liters of water are needed. This means that to cover one hectare of slope with a thickness of 20 to 35 centimeters, 700,000 to 1,200,000 liters of water need to be consumed.

This water is taken from surface or underground sources, which are often already insufficient or endangered by drought. Moreover, the water is taken at a time when there is little water in the landscape. This can lead to disruption of the hydrological cycle, lowering of groundwater levels, loss of biodiversity or conflicts between water users.

The energy required for artificial snowmaking also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, unless it comes from renewable sources. However, most ski resorts still rely on fossil fuels or grid electricity for their snowmaking operations.

Negative impacts on the environment

Another disadvantage of artificial snowmaking is its negative impacts on the quality of the environment. Artificial snow differs from natural snow both in its structure and composition. Artificial snow is made up of tiny ice balls that are harder, denser and less porous than natural snowflakes. This causes artificial snow to have lower thermal insulation, higher albedo and longer melting time than natural snow. This results in a change in microclimate and biotope on the slopes and in the surrounding landscape.

Artificial snow also contains various soluble substances and impurities from water, air or additives used to improve its quality and stability. These substances can be toxic or nutrient for soil, plants and animals. Artificial snow can also be contaminated by bacteria or viruses from human activities.

These factors can affect the ecosystem services provided by natural snow, such as water regulation, soil protection, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation or recreation.

Negative impacts on society and culture

A third disadvantage of artificial snowmaking is its negative impacts on the social and cultural aspects of skiing. Artificial snow can reduce the aesthetic value of slopes and the entire landscape. Artificial snow can also affect the traditions and identities of local residents and visitors of ski resorts. Artificial snow can also lead to commercialization and uniformization of ski resorts, which suppresses their diversity and originality.

These factors can reduce the satisfaction and loyalty of skiers and snowboarders, as well as the sense of belonging and pride of local communities.

Is it worth it?

In conclusion, artificial snowmaking for ski slopes has many disadvantages that outweigh its advantages. Artificial snowmaking is an effective way to extend or preserve the ski season, but at the cost of high environmental, economic and social costs. The question is whether it is worth it.

Perhaps it would be better to look for other alternatives for sustainable development of ski resorts and the entire landscape. For example, investment could be made in protecting natural snow conditions, diversifying the offer of services and activities for different target groups and seasons, supporting local communities and traditions or raising awareness about the consequences of climate change.




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