The effects of climate change are beginning to make themselves known across many of the world’s ski resorts, and “no snow” is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Many lower altitude resorts are facing dwindling snowfall and higher temperatures, whilst drought in some areas is preventing the production of flakes. With this, ski areas below 2,000 meters above sea level could be in trouble.
Le Grand-Bornand ski resort, for instance, experienced a startling difference in snowfall from 2019 to 2022. The destination is known for hosting regular Biathlon events, but last year, it had to rely on snow reserves stored from the previous winter.
Today, most of the world’s resorts (90%) already rely on artificial snow to ensure optimum skiing conditions and successful seasons. Over the past decade, snowmaking across France’s ski resorts has cost of between €40 and 65 million euros ($42 and $69 million) each year, according to Domaines Skiables de France. This represents between 12% and 18% of French resorts’ annual investments.
Resorts are set to become more reliant on snowmaking, and this comes at a time when rising energy costs are piling on the pressure.
Which resorts are best set to weather the storm?
Lower altitude resorts naturally experience less snowfall. They tend to be smaller and attract less visitors, and because of this, they’ll likely have less capital to weather the storm of global warming.
Higher altitude resorts, however—particularly those with north facing slopes—attract more visitors due to their favourable skiing conditions and world-famous peaks. With more revenue coming in, these resorts have more financial resources and are in a better position to withstand the effects of global warming.
Not only will they have the means to increase snowmaking production, but they will have less need to—meaning they’ll have more money to reinvest into maintaining and improving their facilities.
Mathieu Dechavanne, Chief Executive Officer at Compagnie du Mont-Blanc SA, one of the leading ski lift companies in France, based in Chamonix, France:
We are picking up the people who used to ski in lower-altitude stations and now want to minimise the risk that there won’t be any snow there.
As some low-lying resorts are forced to close, those that do survive will benefit from increased demand. Ultimately, a shrinking pool of ski resorts will funnel more skiers into the resorts with more reliant snowfall and better amenities.
Les Trois Vallées is the largest connected ski area in the world, home to Europe’s highest ski resort, Val Thorens, plus other popular destinations like Courchevel and Méribel. Its top elevation is an immense 3,230 m (10,600 ft), whilst 85% of the ski area is above 1,800 metres, which guarantees good skiing conditions. Consequently, this Alpine region presents a great and low-risk opportunity for investors.
The Summer Season
Ski resorts are also beginning to diversify by expanding their summer offering. Tobogganing, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Water Skiing and Lake Swimming are all becoming popular activities over the summer months and are transforming many of the world’s ski resorts into year-round destinations.
Many ski lifts provide access to sought after viewing points and exceptional hiking routes. About 40% of Chamonix’s ski lift revenue is earned over the summer season, from May to October.
Railway routes through the Alpine countryside also present a unique travel experience, and where better to stop off on your journey than one (or several) of luxurious resorts? As well as ski slopes and activities, these communities encompass five-star hotels, entertainment, and incredible restaurants—many of which have been awarded Michelin stars.
As one of the world’s most unique and beautiful regions, the Alps is an incredible place to visit—in winter and in summer, with or without snow. With this, ski resorts around the world are being reimagined as year-round destinations, opening up new opportunities for investors.