Winter sports are facing many challenges. Can they survive? | The Economist

Winter sports are facing many challenges. Can they survive? | The Economist


Winter sports are under threat The multi-billion dollar industry… …the livelihood for many mountain
communities, faces a double problem The popularity of skiing and snowboarding
is declining in the rich world… …and resorts are having to cope
with a warming climate This luxury hotel is the birthplace of
winter sports Welcome to the Kulm Hotel in
St Moritz, Switzerland In the 19th century… …Switzerland was a popular summer
destination for English tourists The owner of the Kulm at the time… …Johannes Badrutt, wanted to fill
his hotel all year round Nobody came in winter The people were afraid of avalanches,
of cold So in 1864 he made a whisky-fuelled
wager with some English guests We are in front of this fireplace
where the famous bet was done The last English guests were about
to leave… …and he offered if they come in winter
and they like it… …they could stay as long as they want If they didn’t like it, he would reimburse
them all the travel expenses The Englishmen returned for Christmas And became so hooked on snow pursuits
that they stayed for three months Soon, others followed and winter
holidays were born Along with their tweed suits
and pinafores… …the English guests brought
their love of competition With the post-war economic boom… …and the introduction of mechanised
ski-lifts in the 1960s… …winter sports soon became all the rage Fashionable ski-suits appeared
on the slopes… …and while the style of the time was
questionable… …the industry brought wealth… …to poor mountain valleys But these days the outlook is darkening Skiers in rich countries are gradually
leaving the sport… …and younger people are less inclined
to take it up Many head to cheaper, hotter
destinations for winter sun In the last ten years… …the number of skiers in the world’s major
ski destinations has fallen Locals here are worried Ladies and gentlemen, we now
welcome the British team The team is ready for start,
the run is clear, let’s go! For St Moritz and other mountain towns
like it… …winter sports are essential
to people’s livelihoods St Moritz would not be the same
without winter sport… …it is very important for the local economy,
they have a lot of jobs It’s very important for the local people Another major worry is the warming climate Since pre-industrial times, average global
temperatures have risen by one degree But the Alps are well above average Temperatures here have risen
by two degrees In the Swiss town of Davos, scientists have
been measuring the amount of snowfall… …and the depth of the snowpack
for nearly a century The snow season starts later
and it ends earlier… …so that means the duration of snow cover
is getting shorter Even though there was a lot of snow
in Davos this year… …long-term trends show snowfall has been
declining for decades And the depth of the snowpack has been
thinning since the 1950s Ski resorts have responded to the
problem… …by investing heavily in
snowmaking machines If there is less and less natural snow… …it means the lower elevated ski resort
gets in trouble Currently, they invest a lot in the
production of artificial snow Artificial snow uses a lot of power
and water It’s clear that there will be less snow
in the future… …the question is just how much less and
how fast this process goes In some places, snowmaking has allowed
resorts to extend the ski season But in a warming climate resorts will
increasingly look like this Many may close by the end of the century… …because they will not have enough
natural snow… …and they will be too warm even
to make artificial snow Take this region of the eastern Alps Scientists calculate that if temperatures
increase by two degrees… …about 15% of resorts may have
to give up on skiing If temperatures rise by four degrees,
60% may be forced to close The big hope for winter sports
now lies in Asia Here in Pyeongchang, South Korea, they
are hosting this year’s Winter Olympics The popularity of this year’s Games –
and the next here in China in 2022… …will be crucial to attracting
new enthusiasts to the sport China and South Korea are both cold in
winter… …but neither Olympic venue has
much natural snow Yet the organisers here are confident
the Games will be a success South Korea in the winter time is actually
the dry season… …however the Pyeongchang region
at 700 metres above sea level… …is perfect to make artificial snow The snow quality will be up at
the Olympic level In Chinese ski resorts, such as this
one in Chongli district… …winter sports is already booming The number of skiers and snowboarders
is increasing by about 20% a year It is estimated that nearly
500 new resorts… …will be built in China ahead of
the 2022 Winter Games In 1864 Johannes Badrutt made
a gamble that paid off The Kulm Hotel has remained a favourite
destination for wealthy winter-sports fans St Moritz is high up in the Alps, so the fun is
likely to continue for decades to come But even here, they’ll have to rely more
heavily on snow cannon That’s expensive, and the cost will be
passed on to the skiers… …making the sport even more
expensive and exclusive On top of this, power-hungry snow cannon
produce more greenhouse gases… …those will add to global warming,
that’s melting the snow and ice

25 Replies to “Winter sports are facing many challenges. Can they survive? | The Economist”

  1. Meh, not a big issue topic we need to focus on. If we hit a +4C increase, the big issue will be extinction and starvation for humans and animals alike.

  2. Not a surprise when the younger generation have a fraction of the same opportunities to create wealth as their previous.

  3. All those poor, poor people in Switzerland! I believe the global community needs to help our Swiss friends – we need more wealthy people spending more time and money there.

    Otherwise, I'm afraid they will need to find real jobs for all those poor people…

  4. Are you kidding me, they could just easily take off 3mo. on a whim to continue there vacation from work? Where did they work at?

  5. Great video Economist for making this feature…. this is a topic I'm very interested in and it seems not enough attention is drawn to it, so thank you.

  6. Get the Economist Subscription for only $12 for 12 weeks! You get both a digital and hard copy!
    https://subscription.economist.com/OA/EXP/UB-Student-Campaign/UB12

  7. Temperatures will be cooling for many decades to come. I am surprised The Economist doesn't know about the Grand Solar Minimum.

  8. <div><span style="color:#ff0000;">I</span><span style="color:#ff4000;"> </span><span style="color:#ff7f00;">L</span><span style="color:#ffff00;">o</span><span style="color:#80ff00;">v</span><span style="color:#00ff00;">e</span><span style="color:#00ffff;"> </span><span style="color:#0080ff;">Y</span><span style="color:#0000ff;">o</span><span style="color:#8b00ff;">u</span></div>

  9. Africa needs to send humanitarian help immediately to those poor European countries. A lack of ski destinations can be very dangerous

  10. These people are not true winner if Russia isn't in the games we should stand with Russia if u really want to be the best

  11. Here is the main reason, income.

    Why would someone spend thousands to go to a ski resort for a few days or weeks. When for a similar price, they can visit a ski resort for 2 weeks, stay in a fantastic hotel, buy new gear, and more for the same price.

    Someone from Arizona could go to Whistler or Stevens pass (which have fantastic snow!) easily for under $2000 with rentals and all. Why spend $5000 to go to a resort in Europe for a few days? Of course, the snow is wonderful there, but the snow is also wonderful in the US as well.

    secondly, the reason younger people aren't getting in to the sport as much because how are you suppose to afford the gear when housing costs are going through the roof! Cost of insurance takes another huge cut doesn't matter how good of a driver you are, and many more factors. So basically, if you're anywhere between the ages of 18-22, you have to get a job at a ski resort (which already pay pretty low) and take advantage of cheep employee housing with multiple roommates (if they offer one), have your parents pay your insurance, and eat the cheapest stuff you can find. Or, get a job that pays you a good wage, (most likely when you are over 30 or 40 if you didn't find anything before that), your insurance cost is down, and don't have a huge family your self.

  12. The more pressing issue for St.Moritz/Zermatt/etc. is that when a no-frills dinner-for-2 costs $150 unless one is a very frugal + careful trip planner — why wouldn't young people just take off for SE Asia?

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