A spokesperson for the Austrian Alpine Association has called for the end of Alpine skiing in light of a report which claims that the infrastructure and land works that facilitate the sport are causing catastrophic damage to mountain areas in the Alps.
“If the alpine ecosystems are not to collapse sooner or later, there is a need to end skiing and winter tourism. Especially for facilities in the highest mountain regions,” Liliana Dagostin from the Austrian Alpine Association told Tourism Review.
She was commenting after a new report by Bavarian landscape ecologist Alfred Ringler who compared 1,000 ski resorts with regard to their environmental impact.
Mr Ringler created an ‘intervention index’ which took in to account land use, clearing, planning, erosion, snow-making. The larger the number given the bigger the environmental impact.
The report found the ski areas offered a combined 30,000 kilometres of piste (a distance equivalent to almost three quarters of the earth’s circumference) and that they were served by a total of around 11,000 lifts. The report noted that 164 new lifts are planned. Although it did not say how many old lifts were being removed at the same time.
“Mega-ski resorts in high altitudes are particularly harmful. They cut ecosystems, reduce the habitat of threatened species and displace disturbance-sensitive wild animals,” Josef Scrhank from WWF Austria said, also commenting on the report.
The report found that smaller ski resorts located near the valley were less damaging to the environment, but that these were more likely to stop operating as they could not compete with the larger, higher ski areas.
“Whole landscapes are being rebuilt to adapt the slopes to the needs of the average skier and to the requirements of snow-making,” Liliana Dagostin added.
The report concluded that there are 55 ’mega ski resorts’ (covering more than 2000 hectares) in the Alps and concluded that their operation in sensitive ecosystems meant the areas cannot recover from such treatment, according to Mr Ringler.