can’t see the forest

Europe’s Environmentalists Blast Snow Cannons

The effects of climate change often are more starkly manifested at extremes of latitude and of elevation. With less snowfall in the mountain peaks of the Pyrenees and Alps, an estimated 98% of Europe’s ski resorts now utilize artifical snow machines and usage of these power-hungry, water-thirsty, and emissions-heavy cannons has doubled over the past ten years.

The Independent reports:

But the energy used to keep the machines spewing snow has tripled. Catalonia’s nine main ski regions have contracted some 9,000kW of electricity to keep their business alive – enough to power a town of 15,000 people. Some resorts face bills of €300,000 (£200,000) to keep snow on the ground. That’s after paying €10,000 for each cannon.

This squandering of power has been forced upon Catalonia by the lack of snow, which threatens one of Spain’s most important economic sectors: the high-end tourism market. This year is worse than before – with visitor numbers down 50 per cent – not only because of the mild winter, but what cold air there is lacks precipitation and hence snow. This means thirsty snow machines must draw on water from depleted lakes and reservoirs.

The campaigners Ecologists in Action say it’s a vicious circle: lack of snow increases the use of machines, which boosts the emission of CO2, increases global warming and makes the snow even scarcer.

Jose Enrique Vazquez, an environmental expert, says resorts could curb energy waste if they installed renewable systems. So next time you sweep down the snowy Pyrenees, watch out for wind turbines among the cable cars.

We’re not talking about catastrophic amounts of energy—it’s the principle that is so bizarre. The ski resorts must turn a profit to prevent fiscal avalanche, but more attention and effort should be paid towards long-term solutions rather than quick fixes.

Snow Cannon in Switzerland


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