Oil Change International

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Piste Off

It’s not just Britain that is feeling the heat. Climate change could devastate European ski resorts within decades, forcing lower-altitude resorts to close according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD report, the first systematic study of the slopes in the Alpine region, has warned that climate change poses a “serious risk” to the resorts and that recent warming in the region was roughly three times the global average.

It is more bad news for Alpine ski resorts, which are already struggling against the warmest weather in 1,300 years, according to Austrian climatologists, with flowers still blooming on some slopes and world ski tournaments being cancelled through lack of snow.

Banks in Switzerland are refusing to lend money to resorts below an altitude of 1,500 metres (nearly 5,000ft) and some small firms are closing, said Shardul Agrawala, who carried out the study.

Germany is most at risk, with the low-lying ski areas in Bavaria threatened. Austria, where winter tourism accounts for 4.5% of the national economy, followed close behind. Also affected were France, where the ski industry had a turnover of €20bn last year, and Italy. The report found that 1994, 2000, 2002 and 2003 were the warmest years on record in the Alps over the past 500 years.

Predictions showed “even greater changes in the coming decades, with less snow at low altitudes and receding glaciers and melting permafrost higher up”.

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