Snow on the ground is a critical resource for mountain regions to sustain river flow, to provide freshwater input to ecosystems and to support winter tourism, in particular in ski resorts. The level of activity, employment, turnover and profit of hundreds of ski resorts in the European Alps primarily depends on meteorological conditions, in particular natural snowfall but also increasingly conditions favourable for technical snowmaking (production of artificial snow).
Since the seventies, ski resort managers have massively improved their snow management practices, initially to mitigate the impact of the large inter-annual variability
of snow conditions, and more recently as adaptation measure to the effects of climate change.
Therefore, ski resorts highly depend on appropriate conditions for technical snowmaking (mainly the availability of cold water, as well as sub-freezing temperature with sufficiently low humidity conditions). By means of modern slope preparation and maintenance, snow stock management and technical snow making, a typical resort can approximately maintain the same season duration with 30% less snow. The ski industry increasingly uses advanced technological means for monitoring snow conditions and operating the management methods and could strongly benefit from anticipation tools to assist the decision-making process.
Beyond the time scale of weather forecasts, managers of ski resorts have to rely on various and scattered sources of information, hampering their ability to cope with highly variable meteorological conditions. Improved anticipation capabilities at all time scales, spanning from “weather forecast” (up to 5 days typically) to “climate prediction” at the seasonal scale (up to several months) holds significant potential to increase the resilience of socio- economic stakeholders and supports their real-time adaptation potential.
The PROSNOW project will build a demonstrator of a meteorological and climate prediction and snow management system from one week to several months ahead, specifically tailored to the needs of the ski industry. PROSNOW will apply state-of-the-art knowledge relevant to the predictability of atmospheric and snow conditions. The associated products will address ski resorts needs beyond state-of-the-art tools.
The added value of such services for ski resorts will be investigated and documented. The project proposes an Alpine-wide system (including ski resorts located in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy). It will join and link providers of weather forecasts and climate predictions at the seasonal scale, research institutions specializing in snowpack modelling, a relevant ensemble of at least 8 representative resorts in the Alps, technical bodies representing ski resorts managers, and a group of private providers proposing high tech services for snow management (on-tracks snow depth monitoring, snowmaking systems, prediction systems, apps …). The added value of the demonstrator will be assessed for the ski industry, but also for additional stakeholders including local and regional tourism authorities, hydropower managers, and natural hazard forecasters and planners.
Beyond the design, development and implementation of the demonstrator itself, PROSNOW will assess the economic added value of the developed product, consolidate the legal frameworks capable of allowing the operational implementation of the demonstrator, and initiate a market dissemination.