Winter vacation: The ski season is open: it's getting more expensive - and the snow is becoming increasingly rare

Put on your ski goggles, strap on your skis and hit the slopes again in many European winter sports regions - the ski season has begun.

Winter vacation: The ski season is open: it's getting more expensive - and the snow is becoming increasingly rare

Put on your ski goggles, strap on your skis and hit the slopes again in many European winter sports regions - the ski season has begun. More than eight million Germans ski and snowboard regularly. This year, however, the anticipation of many fans of alpine fun is likely to be somewhat dampened. Not only does the weather forecast for many popular ski areas in Austria, Italy and Switzerland call for less snow than in previous years, but this makes the start of the season a little more difficult. The prices for ski passes and accommodation also continue to rise.

Compared to the previous year, winter sports enthusiasts have to expect a price increase of up to 15 percent, depending on which region of Europe the ski holiday takes place in. Winter sports enthusiasts in Austria have to pay between 7 and 10 percent more than in the previous season, in Italy they pay 9 to 13 percent more and in Germany the operators increase prices by an average of 9 percent, as well as in the large ski areas in France. In Switzerland, on the other hand, prices appear to be at a similar level as in previous years.

At least at first glance. In view of the changeable weather conditions, many operators have introduced a new pricing model that makes financial planning more difficult for winter sports enthusiasts. With so-called “dynamic pricing,” the prices for ski passes and accommodation can change on a daily basis. How expensive the ski holiday will be depends on the weather, the day of the week, demand and the booking period.

In the Czech Republic, however, ski operators are pursuing a different strategy to keep winter sports enthusiasts engaged: investments worth more than 40 million euros, including for artificial snowmaking on the ski slopes. Libor Knot, director of the Association of Czech Winter Sports Regions (AHS), said on Radio Prague: "This allows you to react to changing weather conditions and also to changing energy prices."

Winter sports enthusiasts will encounter artificial snow not only in the Czech Republic, but in more and more ski areas across Europe in the future. This is increasingly becoming an ordeal, especially for small ski areas. Unlike the large operators, family businesses often cannot afford to operate large snow cannons. Linus Pilar, managing director of the Winterpark Postalm ski area near Salzburg, calls for more attention to the situation in an interview with the Österreicher Kronen-Zeitung. "It can't be that we little ones die out."

The situation is somewhat different in the Swiss alpine region of Gitschberg Jochtal. Christoph Seeber is managing director of the local cable car and tourism cooperative. In an interview with the star, he said about the future of winter sports in his homeland: "Due to the altitude of the ski area - the lowest lift is at 1,400 meters - the effects of climate change are less noticeable here than in other ski areas." If there is no snow, it is possible to make artificial snow on up to 95 percent of the slopes within a very short time.

Hoping for enough snowfall and having a snow cannon in the basement to be on the safe side - that's probably the tactic of most ski operators for this year - and for the future. Nevertheless, ski fans should expect that the selection of winter holiday destinations will become smaller in the next few years. Tourism researcher Markus Pillmayer from the Munich University of Applied Sciences said in an interview with the star: "The fact is that a number of ski areas will disappear. We haven't just known this since yesterday, but for several years." This will not be prevented in the long term even by artificial snowmaking.

Artificial snowmaking is actually nothing new for most ski areas. The snow cannons have been used for years when there is not enough snow for a good descent. The difference, however, lies in the quantity. Snow cannons require a lot of energy and water supplies - and if less and less snow falls in the coming years due to climate change, they will become more and more expensive to operate. Many ski operators can no longer afford this.

Instead of vehemently sticking to ski tourism, the expert advises the affected regions to rethink. "If it is clear that ski tourism will no longer exist in the foreseeable future, then alternatives must be found." There are many options for this: cycling tourism, hiking holidays or converting into a wellness oasis - that is an individual decision of the individual mountain villages. But it has to be taken - especially in the glacier areas, which will soon have to think about tourism away from the snow masses due to the increasing melting.

In the Swiss Jochtal the decision seems to have already been made. "There should be an offer for everyone - we want to be as broad as possible. That's why we prepare winter hiking trails, cross-country ski trails and the toboggan run has technical snow," says managing director Pilar. However, this also falls flat if there is no snow and the art business is no longer profitable. And then? The warm season is becoming increasingly important for mountain villages. For Pilar it is clear: "The summer product is also of great importance for the lift operators, the huts and the accommodation providers."

Sources: Radio Prague, Munich University of Applied Sciences,