For some European ski resorts, winter isn’t worth it anymore

To keep La Sambuy running in these conditions would amount to an annual operating loss of half a million Euros. But some residents are fighting to keep the resort open. It’s an important community hub, and it was far more affordable than other nearby ski resorts that cater to more international visitors. La Sambuy offered lift tickets under EUR€20 for a day and EUR€97 for a week. That’s about a tenth of what you might pay at a Vail-operated resort in the western US.

Overall, the forecast isn’t looking good for snowsports in Europe. The continent has more than half the world’s ski resorts, and most of them will face a “very high snow supply risk” without snowmaking if the world warms 2 degrees Celsius, according to a journal article published in Nature Climate Change in August. Over 2,000 European ski areas were surveyed for the article and 53 percent of them said they would struggle for snow if the two-degree mark is hit; 98 percent would struggle without artificial snow if we reach an increase of four degrees.

But solutions are in the works, and some ski resorts have been working to climate-proof themselves for years. In Switzerland, some alpine resorts have gone as far as covering their glaciers with insulation in the summertime to protect them from melting, at substantial cost. But now, as resorts across the world have begun marketing themselves as year-round destinations to keep money flowing in what used to be the dogs days of summer, they’ve discovered something interesting: Without the expense of making snow, it turns out summer can be more profitable, anyway. Fai della Paganella, a resort in the Italian Dolomites, now has more mountain bikers in summer than it does skiers in winter, according to a recent report from Wired. “It’s not an official calculation, but we estimate that every one Euro a biker spends is worth six or seven times the euro spent by a skier,” said Luca d’Angelo, destination manager for Paganella.

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