For Slovenia climate change is expected to have the greatest adverse effect on winter sports tourism. Warming would shorten the winter season and at the same time exacerbate uncertainty concerning the provision of appropriate snow conditions even in the peak season. That winter sports tourism is at great risk has been supported by the experience of a number of green winters in the past decade, which in certain low-lying ski resorts have caused the loss of virtually the entire season and severely affected the local economies (1).
In a study based on four meteorological stations (three at low elevations) from the Slovenian Alpine and pre-Alpine regions, the number of days with snow cover thicker than 30 and 50 cm showed a decrease at all three stations at lower elevations. For days with snow cover over 30 cm (= minimum condition for skiing) the negative trends were between -12 and -40 days per 30 years (= study period) (2).
Changes in mean winter snow water equivalent (SWE), the seasonal evolution of snow cover, and the duration of the continuous snow cover season in the European Alps have been assessed from an ensemble of regional climate model (RCM) experiments under the IPCC SRES A1B emission scenario (3). The assessment was carried out for the periods 2020–2049 and 2070–2099, compared with the control period 1971–2000. The strongest relative reduction in winter mean SWE was found below 1,500 m, amounting to 40–80 % by mid century relative to 1971–2000 and depending upon the model considered. At higher elevations the decrease of mean winter SWE is less pronounced but still a robust feature. Major impacts for winter tourism in the Alps are expected. Many ski-regions have mean elevations below 2,000 m and are therefore especially vulnerable to climate change (3).
The greatest challenge of adaptation to climate change has to be tackled by winter sports tourism, which has already been greatly affected by variations within the current climate (1):
- Low and medium-lying tourist ski resorts will have to expand their range of services during the winter in order to provide their guests with the possibility of pursuing other activities if conditions are less appropriate for skiing.
- Appropriate plans must be made to increase the share of slopes that can be furnished with snow artificially in order to take advantage of colder periods for preparing a snow base.
- Plans to expand ski slopes must observe the micro-climatic conditions to a greater extent, while slope management must take advantage of meteorological forecasts more actively.
- The expediency of additional investments in ski infrastructure in those resorts where climate change will shorten an already-short ski season must be reconsidered.
- Ski resorts will be able to compensate for the shortening of the winter season at least partly by attracting tourists to the mountainous regions during the summer, which will require the development of an appropriate range of services.
Slovenian ski resorts are even more vulnerable in comparison to other ski resorts in the Alps, since they lie at lower elevations. Only one of them lies above 2000 m and only two above 1600 m. In the long run, this means that winter tourism will need to focus on other activities, such as spa tourism (water parks, swimming pools, relaxation centres); they will also need to focus on the summer season and on transitional periods as well (2).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Slovenia.
- Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy (2002)
- Ogrin et al. (2011)
- Steger et al. (2013)