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Ski tourism may suffer from climate change

A new study by geographers at Staffordshire University has looked at whether ski resorts can survive climate change or if they are doomed to failure. The research suggests that ski resorts will have to diversify by finding new ways to draw visitors. 

“At university I developed a passion for understanding human interaction with the environment and the importance of climate change,” explained lead researcher Rachael Carver.

“I visited the Stubai Glacier in Austria on holiday and was intrigued by the fact that they were trying to conserve the ski industry. It left me asking lots of questions so I decided to go back and learn more.”

The site where the research was carried out takes proactive measures against warming, using blankets to slow melting and diminish wind erosion on the glacier. There is also a slow transition underway from winter tourism to summer tourism. Among the tourists surveyed, 70 percent said they would return even without a glacier, citing scenery and hiking as reasons. 

“At the rate we’re losing glaciers, doing nothing is not an option for these industries. There will be a lot of people adversely affected by the economic impact of not having this tourism,” said Carver.

“It was interesting seeing different solutions to the issue. Most places understand that these practices aren’t a long-term solution, but it is buying them time.”

Carver said that she believes resorts should give visitors other ways to explore the mountains, including mountain biking and hiking trails as well as viewing platforms and educational activities. 

“I think adaptation is key. Yes, they were designed as ski resorts but they can be turned into something else with a little bit of foresight and planning,” noted Carver. 

Fiona Tweed, professor of Physical Geography and Rachael Carver’s advisor highlighted the importance of such research.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time with many far-reaching impacts and implications. Several students in Rachael’s year group did projects that had climate change at their core,” said Professor Tweed.

“We’re looking forward to equipping more students with the skills to work on climate change related issues as part of our new BSc (Hons) Climate Change and Society degree.”

The study is published in the journal Geography.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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