Montenius study proves: Skiing is sustainable

General Meeting of the Wintersport-Arena Sauerland on September 12, 2023

Given the advancing climate change, criticism of winter sports has become louder and louder in recent years. The Wintersport-Arena Sauerland wants to counter this criticism with a holistic and more objective view and has therefore commissioned Montenius Consult to prepare a comprehensive study on the sustainability of winter sports in the region. Christoph Schrahe presented the results of the study at the general meeting on September 12.

What is new is the comprehensive investigation of economic, ecological and social fundamentals and interrelationships, their interdependencies and their effects. "We want to avoid isolated considerations, as these lead to misjudgements," emphasises author Christoph Schrahe. An isolated view, for example of the energy demand, leads to a wrong assessment especially when it is about an emotionally charged topic - and that is climate change to a large extent. Only when, for example, the energy demand is compared with other sectors and other leisure activities is it possible to properly evaluate and judge it.

The study also includes the negative aspects, but not only these. Instead, the 150-page study highlights how much the region benefits from winter tourism. Economic effects are examined, influences on the quality of life and location factors are presented. The use of water is put on a factual, correct level and it is shown that winter sports do not harm flora and fauna. By using the land in winter, it is possible to manage it extensively in summer and to preserve biodiversity. As far as energy use is concerned, winter sports are even particularly efficient compared to the economy as a whole and use green electricity to a higher percentage.

The approach of so-called externalised costs is also new. Here, winter sports presents itself more positively than almost any other industry. There are no long supply chains, the product snow is used on site and is disposed of residue-free and by itself. The study proves this and much more with extensive facts.

It is particularly important for those responsible to show what prospects winter sports have. The study shows that it can still exist for many years. Climate change has a greater impact in summer than in winter. In addition, technical progress is being made. Although the amount of natural snow has become less in recent years, this has been more than compensated for by conventional snowmaking. The number of operating days has doubled since the Wintersport-Arena Sauerland came into being. The snowmaking systems have become much more efficient. This means that a "snow cannon" can produce twice as much snow with the same energy input as 20 years ago. Snow lances even produce three times as much as the models of 15 years ago. The study concludes: In contrast to the past, the Sauerland will have a favourable climate in winter as well as in summer in the future: In winter it offers the increasingly rare experience of snow, in summer a refuge from heat extremes.

Since 2019, it has been the declared goal of the Wintersport-Arena Sauerland to become climate neutral. The study uses many examples and suggestions to show what possibilities there are to get closer to this goal. These go far beyond possible measures to save energy, the well-known use of wind and solar energy. One approach, for example, is to generate heat from the snowmaking process. In cooperation with the municipalities, this could become part of the municipal energy supply concepts called for in the energy transition. The ski resorts have a good chance of becoming the engine of the energy transition in the region.

Climate change is on everyone's lips, not a day goes by without people being made aware of the issue, the consequences, demands, political framework conditions and calls for action from several sides. Because of this and other crisis topics, people are slowly becoming "climate tired", surveys show. The ski resorts in the Sauerland want to set a good example and show how innovative concepts can be used to continue what has been successful for years, what people love and what is good for their health.

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