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Ski tourism threatened by climate change

Ski tourists such as these near the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps might have to go elsewhere in years to come Keystone

Switzerland's skiing industry is under threat from global warming, according to the National Science Foundation, which is warning that revenues could plummet by up to 40 per cent over the next decade.

The foundation’s research, released on Tuesday, says the snowline across much of Switzerland is in retreat, compromising the safety of many low-lying ski resorts.

It says if predictions about global warming are correct, temperatures will rise by as much as two degrees over the next 50 years. The effect will be to raise the boundary at which it is safe to ski from 1,200 to 1,500 metres above sea level.

The foundation predicts that this would reduce the number of “safe” ski regions from 195 today to 144, out of a total of 230 in Switzerland.

The financial repercussions would be severe, according to the foundation, leading to a drop in revenues for winter sports of around 40 per cent, or SFr2.1 billion ($1.3 billion).

It adds that this would be disastrous for many resorts, which are already struggling to survive.

The response of those likely to be most affected – namely skiers, and related businesses such tourist offices, ski lift operators and hoteliers – has been mixed.

Some dismiss the threat entirely, while others say Switzerland should focus on promoting its high-altitude resorts to mitigate the effects on the industry.

The science foundation’s researchers say a more realistic approach would be to promote Switzerland as a place where visitors can get closer to nature.

They point out that 40 per cent of visitors to the Engadine travel to the area to visit the National park.

swissinfo with agencies

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