A study by Swiss researchers at the University of Neufchatel has put numbers to what's been obvious to observers and resort operators: Switzerland has been getting fewer snow days high in the Alps, a big impact on the ski industry.
Working with researchers from Federal institutes studying forests, snow and avalanches, the study, published in the current issue of Climatic Change, says that the area is now getting about 40 fewer snow days than in the 1970s.
Earlier studies focused on winter snows that have not been as heavy in recent years; this study analyzed snow coverage across autumn and spring, from 11 weather stations at various altitudes. On the whole, it's now arriving 12 days later and reaching no-ski conditions 25 days earlier in the spring.
Since the high-altitude resorts are the ones that depend most on spring-break skiing after lower-altitude areas are done for the season, the economic impact on them can be severe. An Austrian study, done in the Austrian Alps, mirrors the Swiss data. Both studies match the overall rise in temperatures globally with the loss of snow, but neither predicts how far it might go.
St Anton Ski Resort (Photo: 24seven/Wikimedia)