Home News Science&Tech The future of Future of Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis depends on high-cost snow cannons

The future of Future of Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis depends on high-cost snow cannons

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Natural snow is becoming increasingly rare, which means that snow cannons will have to be used more and more in the future. And they can significantly increase the price of ski holidays.

For many people, a snow holiday is as much a part of the end of the year as Christmas trees and fireworks. But as global warming continues unabated, white slopes are becoming increasingly rare. In a new study, researchers have calculated how likely it is that one of Switzerland’s largest ski resorts, Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis, will remain snow-sure. If necessary, with the help of snow cannons.

Not snow, but rain

Switzerland is a ski country par excellence. But the future of skiing in Switzerland looks anything but rosy – or rather White. Current climate models predict that there will be more precipitation in the coming decades, but in the form of rain instead of snow. Nevertheless, an investor recently spent several million Swiss francs on the expansion of the Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis ski area. A decision they will regret in the future?

Future of Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis

Researchers have calculated how likely it is that there will be snow in this ski area, which is important for Switzerland, for at least a hundred days in a row during the Christmas holidays and the subsequent ski season – with and without the help of snow cannons. The team collected data on the slopes, where and when artificial snow can be made and how much water it costs. They then combined this data with the latest climate models.

Snow safety

For the real ski fanatics, the researchers have pretty good news. Because with the help of snow cannons, the slopes of Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis will be able to remain colored white throughout the hundred–day ski season-at least in the higher parts of the ski resort (at 1,800 meters and above). Around the Christmas holidays, this will become scarce in the coming decades. The researchers fear that in the future the temperature will not be low enough at the end of December. In the scenario in which we continue to emit greenhouse gases unabated, the Sedrun region in particular will no longer be able to guarantee a white Christmas.

Snow cannons

New snow cannons may be able to help, although they cannot completely solve the problem, the researchers warn. “Many people do not realize that you also need certain weather conditions to make artificial snow,” explains researcher Erika Hiltbrunner.

“For example, it should not be too hot or too humid, otherwise the water droplets will not freeze.”Warm air absorbs more moisture. And as the winters get warmer, it becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible, to make artificial snow. In other words:” the laws of nature set clear limits to the manufacture of artificial snow, ” said Hiltbrunner.

Hundreds of millions of liters of water

Who sees his ski holiday – literally – falling into the water: no need. Thanks to snow cannons, avid skiers can find their salvation at least on higher slopes. Here, anyway, there will be a hundred consecutive days of snow. Also towards the end of the century and in the scenario in which we continue to emit greenhouse gases unabated. But… a high price must be paid. The researchers ‘ calculations show that the water consumption for the snow cannons will increase significantly – by around 80 percent. For your image: today, about 300 million liters of water are used. In an average winter around the year 2100, the water requirement will rise to a whopping 540 million liters.

Incidentally, this increase in water demand is still relatively modest compared to other ski resorts, the researchers emphasize. Previous studies have shown that the water consumption required for snowmaking in the Swiss ski resort of Scuol, for example, could increase by a factor of 2.4 to 5.

Where does all that extra water come from? Today, part of the water used for artificial snow in Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis comes from the Oberalpsee. A maximum of 200 million liters of water may be extracted from this lake annually. If climate change continues unabated, we can still draw on this water source until the middle of the century. After that, it is necessary to look for new sources. “The Oberalpsee is also used to generate energy through hydropower,” says researcher Maria Vorkauf. ”So we will probably see a conflict between the demand for water for the ski resort and that for energy generation.”

All in all, the researchers think that the Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis ski area will initially benefit from climate change. If lower-lying and smaller ski resorts have to close, tourists move to larger areas, located at higher altitudes, including probably Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis. But what is certain is that the deployment of more snow cannons will significantly increase the costs, and therefore also the price of ski holidays. “Sooner or later, people with average incomes will simply not be able to afford this anymore,” concludes Hiltbrunner.

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