Winter sports and global warming: is skiing over?
In France, the mountain attracts 10 million tourists every year, and 250 resorts have been created for them. With 55 million days of skiing in winter, all types combined, well distributed among all age groups of the population under 55, but not across social categories, this leisure activity remains expensive.
After hiking, skiing is the most popular sport in the mountains. An exclusive downhill sport, its imprint on nature is deep: wide slopes, ski lift facilities – more than 3,000 in France – but also deforested areas to ensure snow clearance when not artificially prepared. In times of energy constraints and ecological transition, many people believe that this was part of the pre-skid world.
According to Skidata.io, an observatory of France’s 232 ski resorts, the winter sports experience creates 120,000 jobs, of which almost half (an average of 55,000 annually) are seasonal, according to the ministry.
In this context, Pierre-François Adam, head of the Innovation and sustainable development department of Cluster Montagne, a network of actors in the development of mountain tourism, ensures that “Experts are developing strategies to reduce carbon footprints in construction, as in all mountain industries. “Young people want jobs that respect the environment.”.
A container of oxygen
Because professionals like mountains like tourists. “In the 1960s and 1970s Luc, a keen skier and dentist in Montpellier, explains, skiing was a breath of fresh air for our parents. They did not have the impression of participating in the concretization of the mountain. They simply brought us the taste of winter skiing and meeting family and friends. »
Laure and Sylvain, a teacher and engineer living in Lyon, want to preserve the benefits of the mountains: “The mountain is health: fresh air, regular rhythm dictated by the day, physical effort, light… Mountain skiing occupies a big place in our winter vacations. We appreciate the feel: bumps, dust and sometimes a little speed when the slopes are clear. »
And Clément, their son, a doctor and volunteer firefighter, to add: “The mountain is the greatest gift they gave me after giving me life. » Should we therefore sacrifice all this?
From the love of nature to its exploitation
First of all, let’s remember that alpine skis are not the cause of all mountain changes; stopping downhill skiing will therefore not result in a return to nature. Maintenance of mountains, roads, trails and natural areas must still be done for other activities, winter and summer.
On the other hand, it seems necessary to revise the methods of alpine skiing. Because the increasing improvement of facilities is worrying: ski lifts are getting faster and faster, and at any time artificial snow can replace the snow that does not fall naturally. This last point is a sign of the gradual disappearance of the love of nature in favor of its exploitation.
Sébastien (1), former director of the semi-public company responsible for the ski resort, lecturer in the master’s degree in ski area management, states: “Artificial snow uses as much energy as ski lifts (pumping, production and fuel to clean it). Add evaporation to this pure loss of natural water, and the environment would do well to prohibit it, at the risk of discouraging enthusiasts from the lack of guaranteed snow. A bold political choice! »
Prefer a ski tour?
Energy consumption for a week is estimated at 50 kWh per skier, or 5% of the consumption of a flight from Paris to New York. In Switzerland, the energy consumption of resorts for snowballs, ski lifts and catering is estimated to be equivalent to a city of 30,000 to 40,000 people.
By replacing downhill skiing with a ski tour, many of these concerns can be eliminated without sacrificing the enjoyment of skiing. Luc dares to share his dream born of the pandemic: “I had never experienced such mountains before. Escape the noise of the elevators and say hello to the silence and the animals. »
For this to be sustainable and for many to benefit, he suggests “Keep the ski lifts to a minimum to access the panorama of the peaks. Then, to turn the slopes into ski touring areas, they are simply saved and marked. With a few well-chosen and equipped shelters here and there. In short, another downhill ski that is sportier, freer and greener! By maintaining the structures of mountain tourism that provide employment to the local population”.