Climate change is affecting ski resorts across the world and getting wise to the challenges and building resilience is key to the future success of the industry.
Shorter, more inconsistent ski seasons have forced ski resorts and regions to adapt. The development of snowmaking technologies means that snow-starved slopes can be topped up (assuming temperatures are low enough), ensuring the availability of skiing even when conditions are poor. Austrian resorts alone have invested €1 billion in snowmaking in the past decade.
Indoor snow slopes, traditionally found in locations without any kind of natural skiing, are now being planned for ski resorts. In the French Alps, Tignes, one of Europe’s highest resorts, plans to invest €62 million in a 400m-long indoor slope to enable skiing 365 days a year.
The larger ski resorts are diversifying heavily into new activities. Water parks, spas, zip lines, golf and music festivals help balance demand between skiers and non-skiers, supporting more consistent operations throughout the year.
The Savills ski conditions resilience index ranks major global ski resorts using five metrics to measure snowfall, reliability, season length, altitude and temperature. North-facing, high-altitude Zermatt, in Switzerland's Valais canton, tops the chart followed by Vail, in Colorado, Saas-Fee, also in the Valais canton, and Aspen, also in Colorado.
With some 400 million annual ski visits worldwide, winter sports remain a major global industry. The ski resorts that serve them are home to some of the world's most desirable and established residential property markets. The volume of money being invested into new projects and infrastructure is testament to the confidence in the future of the mountain economy.
For example, In Switzerland, Crans Montana is now actively promoting itself as a ‘city in the mountains’, with dual-season activities, new restaurants and a recently opened British International boarding school. Courchevel, in the French Alps, recently opened Aquamotion, a €65 million indoor watersports centre; Val d’Isère, also in the French Alps, is to build a €200 million hotel, retail and commercial centre, while Verbier, in Switzerland's Valais canton, is benefiting from extensive investment from global hotel brands.
Read more: Spotlight: Savills Ski Report