Unsurprisingly, snowmaking takes up a lot of energy.

A study shared by Phys.org from the University of Waterloo, in Canada, and the University of Innsbruck, Austria studied the energy that snowmaking uses at Canadian ski resorts. Each year, snowmakers use 478,000 megawatt-hours of electricity and 43.4 million cubic meters of water to produce the white stuff. They discovered that 130,095 tons of CO2e are required to make an estimated 42 million cubic meters of man-made snow that’s produced on average. This is equivalent to the energy needed to power nearly 17,000 homes in one year.

The report calls for the ski industry, environmental groups, and lawmakers to collaborate on protocols that prioritize sustainability in addressing the challenges posed by climate change and its associated impacts on snowpack.”

The Canadian ski industry is a major part of its tourism sector. There are currently 237 ski resorts/areas running in the country. Skier visits average around 18.2 million a year, with 2.7 million of them coming from abroad.

Professor Daniel Scott, who is from the Geography and Environmental Management department at Waterloo, described what needs to be done to improve the energy efficiency of snowmaking equipment:

“Our results emphasize the need to adopt a systems approach to ensure the long-term sustainability of ski tourism…This will include embracing innovation and investing in energy-efficient snowmaking technologies, promoting water conservation measures, and accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources.”

There are some positive aspects to snowmaking in Canada though, as Professor Scott explained in the report:

“Snowmaking can actually help reduce  from tourism when it enables millions of skiers to ski regionally instead of driving or flying to far off  or selecting another type of carbon-intense holiday. Net-zero compatible ski holidays are already possible in destinations like Quebec and our study shows a vibrant and resilient future for ski tourism is possible.”

The scientists believe that increased decarbonization efforts in Canada and improved sustainability in snowmaking and grooming technology will lead to decreased emissions. Corporations like Vail Resorts and the Alterra Mountain Company are continuously modifying their sustainability plans, leading to reduced emissions each year.

Professor Scott predicted how the energy cost of snowmaking will reduce in the coming decades:

“What we can see is that snowmaking emissions are expected to decline substantially, thanks to the ongoing efforts to decarbonize provincial electricity grids in alignment with current policy targets. Future emissions will also be influenced by various other factors, including upgrades in snowmaking and grooming technology and increased terrain coverage.”

You can read the study here.

Image Credits: Aaron Doucett (Header & Featured Image), Ian Wood

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