In less than 25 years global warming could spell the beginning of the end for the annual ski and winter sports holiday that millions of Britons enjoy each year, according to a new report by Halifax Travel Insurance.
Reduced snowfall and an increase in extreme weather conditions in alpine regions, such as avalanches and landslides, will drastically reduce the number of winter sports resorts and significantly increase the cost of visiting them.
The report was produced for Halifax Travel Insurance by Bill McGuire, Professor of Geohazards and Director of the Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre.
According to the report, in just 13 years the European Alps could see a 30% reduction in the total amount of snow as a result of global warming.
Resorts will need to invest additional sums in piste-bashing and snow-making machines to combat adverse weather conditions. Winter sports such as skiing, which have become increasingly mass market in the last decade, could once again return to an elitist hobby.
McGuire’s report goes on to caution winter sports enthusiasts that they face an increased risk from whiteouts and avalanches in future as unpredictable huge ‘dumps’ of snow can be expected, despite overall snow cover decreasing. A rise in the number of rock falls, landslides and mudflows is inevitable as temperatures in alpine regions rise, with the risk of entire mountain sides collapsing, potentially burying alpine villages and ski resorts under millions of tons of rock within minutes.
Rising temperatures could melt the permanently frozen soil and rock that keeps many mountain sides in upland areas from disintegrating. Since the 1970s the temperature in the Alps has increased by two degrees, starting to melt the permafrost that binds otherwise unstable rock masses together.
Travel insurance: News update: February 2007