Here’s my ‘no’ response to the question above published in the Observer’s Escape section

When you jump off that chair lift for the first time every season, fill your lungs with frigid air and glance at that mountain vista ahead, it’s hard not to feel a connection with nature. Immersing yourself in this environment is arguably one of skiing’s key attractions.

But strip away the glamour and the thrills and you are left with a list of environmental woes. And that’s not taking into account the fact that the busiest slope in any ski region is the line of aircraft descending to the airport. You cannot talk about skiing without mentioning climate change. Skiers, of all people, should be aware of the rapid changes occurring on the world’s mountain ranges. Glaciers are in speedy retreat and snow lines are rising quickly.

Skiers are not directly causing these problems, other than by being members of the human race. But the skiing industry is frantically, forlornly, trying to stave off the deleterious effects of climate change with a series of measures that will only exacerbate the problem in the long run. The arrival of snow cannons at virtually every major resort over the past decade is the most worrying of trends. Working through the night as the skiers’ attention turns to the delights of schnapps and fondue, these spray particles of water mixed with nucleating agents into the freezing air to create a blanket of artificial snow. A lack of the real stuff has forced the industry to rely on these machines, but their environmental impact is considerable.

Mountain Wilderness, a French conservation group that described skiing as “the cancer of the Alps”, says that 4,000 cubic metres of water are needed to cover one hectare of piste for a season – whereas a hectare of corn needs only 1,700. Across the Alps, it is estimated that artificial snow consumes the same amount of water each year as 1.5 million people. Incredibly, in some regions, tap water is used, but elsewhere river water is extracted from the valleys below and pumped back up the mountain.

This causes two problems. First, there is the energy expenditure: Mountain Wilderness says that it requires about 25,000 kilowatt-hours, costing about €150,000, to cover just one hectare of piste with snow for a season (that’s largely why the cost of ski passes has risen so much in recent years). Second, dumping river water at high altitude disrupts biodiversity because it introduces nutrients in the water into an area where they wouldn’t otherwise be.

Using artificial snow also means that the pistes now take up to a month longer than normal to melt in the summer, preventing many plant species lying dormant underneath from germinating and flowering, leading to huge muddy scars in the summer meadows where the pistes once lay. Just take a look on Google Earth at satellite images of, say, the Chamonix valley or Aspen during the summer months.

“Artificial snow is not the root of all evil, but it is very close,” says Sergio Savoia, the programme director of WWF Switzerland. “One of the biggest problems is psychological: snow cannons give tourists the idea that it is business as usual. But we don’t actually have much snow.”

Some low-lying resorts are experiencing winter nights that are too warm even to use snow cannons. There are reports that helicopters are being used to ferry snow to threadbare pistes in order to keep these resorts in business. In 2002, Italian police set up a task force to investigate the “theft” of snow from glaciers by the truck load in order to serve nearby resorts. The alternative is to abandon such resorts and chase the snow, by building new lifts and hotels further up the mountain. This is already being seen in some places.

But, despite the promises of resort owners, how environmentally sensitive can a concrete mixer really be when taken high up into a wilderness area and put to work?

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