Rising global temperatures threatening the future of Europe’s ski industry

Temperatures in the Alps and across much of Europe’s ski resorts were positively balmy over Christmas. Even above 2,000 metres, the sun shone brightly and with plenty of warmth on 25th December, which felt more like a spring day in the mountains than one of mid-winter.  

There was still some snow on the ground of resorts in southern France – enough to make a snowball or two – but it was light and patchy. On piste, snowmakers provided an extra dusting to compensate for the lack of natural snow for some of the slopes, but the majority remained closed.

Across the region, as well as elsewhere in Europe, there has been a distinct lack of decent snowfall since the start of the month. 

A €27 billion industry under threat 

Europe’s €27 billion ski industry is home to 80% of the world’s ski resorts and a high proportion of the most famous and popular, but all are suffering as global temperatures rise incrementally. 

“Scarce snow”, which is defined as the poorest coverage of snow experienced on average every five years between 1961 and 1990, is becoming more and more common.

According to a recent report, half of Europe’s ski resorts will have scarce snow every other year if global temperatures increase to 2C above preindustrial levels. This figure rises to 98% if there is 4C of global heating. 

Reliance on artificial snow

If artificially produced snow is accounted for – enough to provide 50% coverage on piste – it reduces those statistics to 27% for a 2C rise and 71% for a 4C rise.  

A reliance on artificial snow will be controversial, however. The process requires significant energy and water use, the latter of which could be a problem for the resorts in a regularly drought-stricken southern France, and produces damaging emissions, albeit just 2% of the overall greenhouse gases created by ski resorts.  

Already in the winter of 2023/24, there will be many resorts on the continent, and not just in the southern Alps, that will be relying heavily on snow cannons if they are going to provide enough skiing and snow to keep their visitors happy.  

Even then, snow machines can only do so much. They can assist with snow cover if temperatures stay low enough, but they are helpless at combatting the unusual mildness of the weather.  


Join the Monaco Life community – the largest English media in the Principality.   

Sign up for the Monaco Life newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Tik Tok. 


Photo by Monaco Life