French Ski Resorts Are At Risk of Getting Hooked By Artificial Snow

It’s not yet winter however French ski resorts have already begun to resort to snowmaking. The warmer temperatures that have come because of changes in the climate have resulted in its use becoming established in recent years and 29 percent of French ski slopes equipped with snowmaking devices including snow propellers or lances. The process of making snow is by spraying tiny drops of water into a cold environment, which then solidify when they reach the ground. The consistency is comparable to the consistency of snow that has been compacted.

There’s been no shortage of dissent against this method of production, which was first exposed around the turn of the century. Then, in September of 2023 the Mayor of La Clusaz, a commune situated to West of Chamonix was able to stop the construction of a reservoir which would have provided the water needed to make snow in the wake of many years of protest from environmental organizations. As the climate crisis gets worse the viability of this technology to adapt is likely to provoke further discussion.

In an Journal article we have uncovered the ways that the sport industry in winter is in a bind on snowmaking.

Away From The Harsh Winters

The snowmaking technology has been created through an industry group in the French snow sports sector since the first trials began in 1973. The technology is being increasingly used in regular use to improve the conditions on the slopes. Between 2005 and 2016, snowmaking accounted of the equivalent of 20% the total expenditure by ski resort management which is the second largest segment after the purchase of brand new lifts for skiing.

The current market isn’t just a focus of skiers as well as all other players in the field of winter sports. Agents for apartment rentals that offer “ski-in, ski-out” facilities Tour operators who want guarantee for their package deals and alpine communities wishing for snow to return to their community All pray that snowmaking will bless their projects.

Despite the rapid growth in this type of technology and the technological advancements made, changing weather conditions due to climate change can be a deterrent aspect. The process of making snow doesn’t release the operators from restrictions like the requirement for sub-zero temperatures as well as the dependence on the availability of a abundant water supply. The effects caused by climate change have been decreasing the depth of snow cover and also chances to create snow.

Although the future climate risks hindering how effective snowmaking is, a move away from it is a challenge to the sports industry. The situation is been only recently been examined.

A Classic ‘Path Dependence’

Our research shows that snowmaking has pushed the world of winter sports to an incontrovertible “path dependence”. The prior decisions to invest in this technology as well as the increase in snow cover that have been achieved over the years result in continued spending denying other activities of resources either natural or economic like water supply.

This dependency can result in ski tourism taking an expansionary path as it is to lead it down the other one, but with distinct consequences for mountain areas.

To consider the scenario of expansion making investments in the snowmaking industry has backed up a weather-dependent, seasonal process that exhibits the traits of a major business. Basically, the process of developing an ski resort requires large capital expenditures, most notably to renew the ski lifts, and fixed costs that increase the business’s vulnerability to financial risks arising from the inherent variability of weather. In addition, there is the expertise and ever-sophisticated techniques for making snow, and the rise in dedicated service.

The end result is that snowmaking creates an opportunity for tourism for France within the established as well as highly competitive European skiing market. Making snow is a way to maintain France’s market share which is the third largest in the world of winter sports after those of the US as well as Austria having 50 million skiing days in the year. It also accounts for nearly 27% share of the international skiers.

A total of 10 percent of French citizens participate in winter activities every year, which equates to 7 percent of the domestic guests staying overnight in the metropolitan area of France. Furthermore, France’s 250 skiing resorts are expected to provide more than 120,000 employment opportunities.

Many much-needed, yet long needed, but however, the process could be a path of contraction. The investment that is made in snowmaking can will only benefit the ski industry, ensuring an industry-specific economy of winter tourism in sports. The risk of over-specialisation could result in negative effects on the mountain region as a whole. This could delay the inevitable changes, and reduce the effects of actions that are aimed towards expanding Alpine economy.

In this way, a vicious circle is formed The tendency to invest in equipment for snowmaking captures resources that could be utilized to get the ball rolling towards an the eventual change. This calls for a coordinated institutional and economic response. Perhaps the state can assist in helping these regions break free of the dependence on skiing, or in fact, from all tourism in the face of the realities of climatic and environmental changes.