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Evidence for recent climate change:

Many of the Alps most popular resorts, such as Morzine and Megeve, lie at relatively low levels in France - about 1000m. They are all in danger of running out of snow as the world warms up. In 30 years time the snowline may rise by as much as 300m and that half of the resorts in Europe will have to close by 2050. Switzerland could lose up to £1 billion a years as hotels, restaurants, shops and resorts are forced to close down.

Responses in lower-level resorts

Lower-level resorts have responded in a variety of ways:
  • tourists are transported by bus to higher-level resorts for skiing
  • artifical snow is cannoned onto the slopes. In low-level parts of Austria and Italy up to 40% of resorts now have to make their own snow. This is expensive and can have a serious effect on vegetation, which amke take 30 years to recover
  • resorts have had to re-invent themselves. Some have started to promote themselves as centres for cross-coutnry skiing, hiking, climbing, sledding or snowboarding
  • there are plans to build new ski lifts to link resorts, but this could cause considerable damage to the environement

Abondance, France

Abondance was a typical Alpine ski reosrt in the Haute-Savoie region of France. After 15 years of unreliable snowfall the ski lifts closed for the last time. The local council are considering two options:
  • to develop other forms of winter sports, such as ski touring, snowshoeing and snow-mobiling that are less dependent on deep snow than traditional skiing
  • to develop its summer programme of activities to include hiking, water sports and mountain biking. This would enable the town to become more of an all-year round resort rather than just a winter one

New developments

The High Alps form a pristine landscape rich in wildlife and free from pollution. With low-level resorts in decline, there is considerable pressure from developers to develop these wildneress areas. However, tourism developments can harm fragile environments in a number of ways:
  • road construction and the building of ski lifts, houses and hotels can have a big impact on natural ecosystems and habitats
  • trees are often cut down to amke wya for developments. They have an importnat function in binding the soil on steep slopes and breaking up avalanches
  • overuse of slopes for skiing can strip a hillside of its natural vegetation, which can take many years to re-establish. Mountain biking can lead to gullies, which can be enlarged following heavy rain or snowmelt to form scars on the landscape
  • with increasd levels of pollution (e.g. noise, visual), the natural landscape loses some of its appeal and this may reduce the attractiveness of the area for tourism
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6176271.stm - an article on the future of the Alpine ski industry
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8110551.stm - an article on how the border between Italy and Austria is changing as a result of climate change causing glacial retreat