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Snowmaking in the French Alps: climatic context, current facilities and outlooks

Abstract : Snowmaking facilities spread in the French Alps from 1974 and particularly from the 1990s. Nearly all resorts are now equipped with snowmaking facilities which appears as a guarantee of snow for a successful stay (for skiers) and a sufficient revenue (for ski lifts operators). The effects of climate change justified the investments in new facilities in the last few years while research projects investigated that topic for the first time by crossing socio-economic and physically based approaches. Our survey was realised in autumn 2014 and collected data from a representative population of resorts of the French Alps. According to that survey, 32% of ski tracks surface are now equipped with snowmaking facilities in the French Alps. That ratio should even reach 43% of equipped ski tracks by 2020. Even though Medium to Very Large resorts are now equipped at very similar levels, the upcoming developments of snowmaking facilities highly depend on resorts size. The Very Large resorts plan the largest extensions and nearly 50% of their ski tracks surface should be equipped with snowmaking facilities in 2020. However, an analysis of suitable conditions for snowmaking in the French Alps shows that the potential for snow production is limited and decreases since the 1960s by several hours per year depending on the altitude. Since the effects of climate change should be even more important in coming decades, the resorts will probably have to produce snow in more marginal conditions, with lower efficiency and thus higher costs.
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Submitted on : Monday, February 8, 2021 - 3:24:25 PM
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P. Spandre, H. François, S. Morin, E. George-Marcelpoil. Snowmaking in the French Alps: climatic context, current facilities and outlooks. Revue de Géographie Alpine / Journal of Alpine Research, Association pour la diffusion de la recherche alpine, 2015, 103 (2), pp.17. ⟨10.4000/rga.2913⟩. ⟨hal-02602560⟩



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