by Andrzej Bil

 

Abstract:

Climate change is seen as potential threat for the tourism industry; winter sport tourism in particular is highly vulnerable to any climatic changes. Due to the recent intensity of climate variability, a greater consideration of strategies to mitigate and adapt to those changes should be undertaken by businesses so as to continue operating. This study investigates the impacts of climate change on low and high altitude ski resorts in Tatra County, Poland and assesses the adaptation strategies of ski lift operators. Interviews with ski lifts operators and mountain rescue team member were conducted while questionnaires were also given to local ski school companies. The research results point out the continuing trend in global warming over the last few decades, and indicate visible effects of climate change in Polish ski resorts. All of the researched ski centres stated that climate change is seen as a threat to the winter tourism industry as a whole, thus the ski operators came up with strategies which have been implemented to adapt to the negative effects of climate change. Those strategies has been determined and critically assessed.

 

1.  INTRODUCTION

Mountain tourism is highly dependent on natural resources and environmental conditions, especially in alpine regions where the climate has strongly influenced the form of tourism development (ski tourism). These areas are the most jeopardized by climate change because of the interdependent characteristic of the economic activities. Climate impacts would extend beyond resources, activities, and regions where actual effects are primarily observed (Rose et al. 2000). Tourism sector will face the direct impacts of weather variability and global warming as well as indirect impacts caused by the associated industries (fishery, agriculture, infrastructure etc.) which are also exposed to climate change. Hence the quality of the service provided by the tourism operators could dwindle, affecting their company’s processes and income. Most of the ski resorts in the researched areas are family run businesses which have not prepared formal business plans so as to assess the risk associated with climate change and to develop adaptive strategies.   

Winter tourism generates vast amounts of income for the economy and poor climatic conditions could badly harm tourism operations as well as local communities which in some regions are exclusively dependent on winter tourism. Winter sport tourism is characterised by the vigorous participation of visitors in various activities therefore they seek favourable weather conditions, such as adequate snow level and precipitation. It is likely that climate change will alter the tourism pattern which would have various consequences on the particular areas (Surugiu et al. 2010). There will also be "winners" and "losers", both in terms of regions – where some ski resorts are considerably more vulnerable than others – and in terms of the ski areas themselves, with low-lying ski areas being considerably more vulnerable than areas with high altitudinal range. Recent reports have admitted rising losses in winter tourism due to reduction of snow cover in Europe (OECD, 2007).

 

1.1 Aim of this paper

The overall aim of this paper is not only to measure to what extent the impacts of climate change affect the operations of low and high altitude ski resorts in Tatra County, Poland but also to identify sustainable adoption strategies to maintain welfare of ski slope owners and local communities.  

By undertaking questionnaires and interviews with the key stakeholders it will be possible to form a view on the future of the winter sport tourism in Poland under the threats of global climate change.

 

1.2 Research Question

‘How is climate change affecting low and high ski resorts in Tatra County, and what has been done to manage these impacts?

 

1.3 Objectives

In order to answer research questions a number of research methods will be used during data collection, to gather sufficient and adequate information.  Numerous objectives have been set to make the overall aim more achievable.

  • To conduct secondary research in order to determine the climate change phenomena and evaluate the socio-economic significance of winter tourism sectors to recognize the importance of further strategy adaptations
  • To determine the primary research by sending e-questionnaires to the ski schools and to conduct interviews with mountain rescue team members in order to establish the popularity of the skiing and snowboarding activities nowadays.
  • To conduct interviews with the ski resort owners so as to establish current situations of the winter sport sector and to identify the future adaptation strategies to mitigate impacts of climate change.

1.4 INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE STUDY AREA

 

Poland is located in Eastern Europe; it is bordered in the north by the Baltic Sea and Russia, in the east by Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, in the south by the Slovakia and Czech Republic and in the west by Germany (map 1). The country has a population of 38.7 million with nearly 2 million living in the capital, Warsaw (Turner 2000).

Map 1: Poland & Tatra Mountains

 

Poland is a modern and lively central European country which offers a diverse range of touristic products. From the endless sandy beaches and the ‘land of the thousand lakes’ the remnants of the ice age throughout the Central Europe’s largest forested areas; to the jagged peaks, steep rocky slopes and beautiful glacial lakes of the Tatra Mountains in the south, Poland is attracting tourists from all over the world. Located in the centre of Europe, Poland is a weekend and vacation destination for people with a variety of interests. Apart from the scenic land range, Poland has to offer a wide range of cultural attractions and events. Numerous museums, palaces, churches and castles depict the heritage, history and significance of the Polish nation.

Poland is a typically lowland country where approximately 3 percent of the country’s area is located 500 meters above sea level, nevertheless this 3 percent represents around 10 000 square kilometres. The Tatra Mountains are located in the southern part of Poland and are unique in the whole Carpathian arc due to their alpine landforms. This is the highest land occurring between the Alps and the Ural and Caucasus mountains. The Tatra Mountains contains an area of 750 square kilometres, of which 150 square kilometres lie in Poland. As air temperatures decrease and precipitation increases with altitude, the snow cover increases both in duration and depth. In the top area, the snow cover starts to form at the end of October and it disappears in late May. The snow cover is at its maximum at the end of March (Klapa 1978). In the Tatras, as in typically high mountains, the weather variations are vast and frequent strong force winds which cause pressure spike and rapid snow melting in winter. The Tatras are characterised by temperature inversion.

There are more than 100 towns and villages in the Polish Carpathians and Sudety Mountains which developed ski infrastructure however most of them are on the small scale as well as poorly equipped. The majority of Polish ski resorts are located in the Carpathian Mountains, among the popular are Zakopane, Bialka Tatrzanska, Wisla and Szczyrk. The village of Zakopane has been called ‘the winter capital of Poland’ and it is an iconic winter holiday destination for both domestic and international tourists. Zakopane is located in the Tatra County within Tatra Mountains range, where the research will be carried out. In winter, the Tatras region sees a remarkable phenomenon known as temperature inversion. In the valleys, it is colder than in the higher parts of the mountains which have impact on the length of the snow cover on the lower altitude areas (Interviewer: K3). The Kasprowy Wierch is located 1987 meters above the sea level (a.s.l.) and it is the highest located ski slope within the Tatra County offering good conditions for winter sports. The ski season usually lasts until May. Another well developed ski resort is Bialka Tatrzanska, the neighbouring town of Zakopane. Bialka is located 910 m a.s.l. and has 16 kilometres of ski trails in total. Further away from the Zakopane village, Spytkowice ski resort is located on 808m a.s.l. which attracts vast amount of visitors who do not wish to travel further south.

 

2.  LITERATURE REVIEW

 

2.1 Global Warming


Climate system is dynamic and fluctuates constantly. Nevertheless over the last century, global average surface temperatures have increased by 0.8°C (IPCC, 2007a). Based on observations of global air, ocean temperatures, changes in snow cover and sea level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it is unequivocal that the climate system has warmed (fig.4) (IPCC, 2007a). The year 2005 was reported as being the warmest year in several thousand years and in 2011 the global average surface temperature was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA Scientists. The research maintains a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have been observed since the year 2000 (NASA 2012).

Most of the warming since the middle of the 20th century is very likely to be due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (IPCC, 2007a). Based on the ‘Special Report on Emission Scenarios’ (SRES) for greenhouse gas emissions it is projected that by the end of the 21st century temperatures are likely to raise from 1.1 to 6.4 °C, compared to the end of the 20th century (IPCC, 2000). Those global average temperature alterations have significant effects on local, regional and global levels as, for instance: sea levels rise, floods, drought, changes in temperature, human health and wind patterns (IPCC, 2007b)

 

Figure 1a: History of the global temperature differences in °C.

Figure 1

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2011-temps.html

 

To explain the rise in the global temperature over the last decades it is urged to assimilate the term described as ‘greenhouse effect’. Following is a brief explanation of this phenomenon:     

 

The greenhouse effect positively affects the Earth by warming the surface and providing life on the planet, without this process all energy would travel back into space leaving the Earth at the temperature below -15°C. Fortunately the Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere composed of various greenhouse gasses (methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor) which absorb some of the energy reflected by the Earth’s surface. This process traps the heat in the atmosphere and keeps the Earth surface about 30°C warmer than it normally would be. This process is commonly known as the ‘natural greenhouse effect’ (fig.2.2). The Earth emits greenhouse gases in a range of ways like: forest fire, animal digestive processes, natural soil and ocean processes, volcanoes and decay of plant materials. These gases regulate the Earth’s temperature and keep the planet inhabitable by human beings who tolerate a certain range of temperature.

 

However over the last 150 years more greenhouse gasses are released to the atmosphere, trapping the heat and increasing the strength of the greenhouse effect. The in their Fourth Assessment Report recognized and evaluated the probability of the future changes in the climate conditions. The projections show that within 20 years of ongoing emissions of Green House Gases to the atmosphere on the current level or above, it is likely to cause vast climate change disruptions. Also there is an increased probability by 25 percent that the average temperature on Earth would increase by 2°C (IPCC 2007a).

 

Figure 1b. The greenhouse effect.

Figure 2

Available from: http://www.our-energy.com/global_warming.html

 

2.2 Climate Change in Poland

Climate conditions in Poland have changed remarkably in the last decade compared with the norms set up by climatologists for the earlier periods. Gorski and Kozyra (2011) developed maps of Poland illustrating the distribution of temperatures in various locations (Map 1.2). Significant warming took place especially during the first half of the calendar year where winters became milder and mostly lacking in regular snow cover. From ten maximum values of mean annual temperature recorded in the period 1951–2000 in Poland, six of them occurred during the last decade of the 20th century (Kożuchowski and Żmudzka 2001).

 

Map 2. Mean air temperature in Poland in the years 1941–1990 (A) and the temperature predicted for 2011–2020 (B).

Map 2
Source: (Gorski and Kozyra 2011)

 

Kozuchowski and Degirmendzic (2005) are certain that the most substantial climate changes are observed in winter (<0°C), which is characterised by the largest temperature variation. Apparently, thermal winter begun relatively early during the last decade of the 20th century but its length shortened significantly. In south-eastern Poland (Przemysl) which is the closest research station to the Tatra Mountains, the length of winter season decreased by nearly a quarter of its average duration in a 50-year period (fig.2.2).

 

Figure 2. Mean duration of thermal winter (<0°C) in the period 1951–2000 and its changes in the period 1991–2000.

Region

(station)

Average

(1951-200)

(days)

Change

(1991-2000)

(days)

NW (Szczecin)

41 -20 

SW (Wroclaw)

50  -16 

Central (Lodz)       

77  -5 

NE (Suwalki)

100  -12 

SE (Przemysl)

78  -14 

Source: (Kozuchowski and Degirmendzic 2005)

 

Besides, years with the lack of winter or winters where sessions have split into two or three sub cold periods separated by thaws, became more frequent in the end of the century. Winter sessions terminated by the distinct and ongoing warming up is called a “coreless” winter. As a result of thermal winter disappearance the “coreless” winters started to arise more regularly during the several consecutive decades of the last century (fig. 2.3).

 

Figure 3. The number of years with “coreless”* winter (CLW) and with the lack of thermal winter (LW) in the successive decades of the period 1951–2000 in different parts of Poland.

Decades

NW

(Szczecin)

 

SW

(Wroclaw)

Central

(Lodz)

NE

(Suwalki)

SE

(Przemysl)

CLW

LW

CLW

LW

CLW

LW

CLW

LW

CLW

LW

1951-1960

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961-1970

3

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1971-1980

1

 

2

1

1

 

1

 

 

 

1981-1990

1

3

1

2

2

 

1

 

3

 

1991-2000

2

4

4

1

2

 

1

 

2

 

 

Source: (Kozuchowski and Degirmendzic 2005)

 

Domonkos and Piotrowicz (1998) investigated the series of winter temperatures from the meteorological station in Cracow-Poland and in Hungary during 1901-1993. Cracow lies within close vicinity to the research area (less than a 100km) so applying the researcher’s findings could give additional arguments to the discussion. Authors examine the characteristics of seasonal averages, the number of extreme cold days, the length of a cold season, and the annual absolute minimum of mean daily temperatures (fig.6). Results show an insignificant decrease in severity of Central European winters. The rate is greater for Cracow which may be conditioned by various factors, such as increase of development and urban effect. The decreases of the cold seasons and the increase in the seasonal averages are two most significant changes. Low numbers of extreme cold occurrences also contributed to decrease in severity of winter season.

Figure 3. (a) Mean temperatures of winters (December–February), (b) Length of cold seasons, (c) Seasonal sums of cold 5-day events (November–March).

Source: (Domonkos and Piotrowicz 1998)

 

(a)

 Figure 3a

(b)

Figure 3b 

(c)

Figure 3c

 

In fact in Poland, at least until the November 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw, there had been small interest in climate change beyond a narrow circle of experts and ecological activists. Other members of society were pretty unresponsive towards these issues. However, the European Union directives as well as energy and climate change package changed this situation, albeit slowly. The official position, both of the Polish government as well as of the majority of society, is not to question the progress of climate change nor the necessity to fight this phenomenon and its effects. However, the situation looks much worse when we look at the awareness of the needs and consequences of adaptation to climate change. And this is the case not only in Poland, but in the whole of Europe (Zmijewski 2009).

 

2.3 Impacts of Climate Change on Winter Sport Tourism

Climate has been classified as a main driver for tourism and major destinations attribute (Hu & Ritchie, 1992). Tourists seek particular climate conditions while deciding on the type of holiday or specific activities which they will participate in. However, recent issues of climate change could have a negative impact on some tourism destinations, making some tourism activities impossible.

In mountainous areas, the effects of climate change can create issues such as a decrease in the snow cover, frequent avalanches, floods, storms, and other extreme weather anomalies. These events are already occurring on a bigger scale compared to the last decades. Despite the optimistic projections of World Tourism Organisation regarding the global tourism industry, mountainous tourism is experiencing crisis, uncertainty and stress which are mainly the consequence of climate change and global warming. Nevertheless other factors will have an influence on the mountain tourism prosperity, such as: competition of other tourist destinations, a growing economic and territorial divide between small and large resorts, new recreational patterns, a loss of share in the tourism market, etc. and they should not be neglected (Bourdeau 2009).

Global climate change is likely to be the most severe environmental threat and it should be challenged to mitigate the negative impacts. Despite the global economic importance of Tourism and the significant influence of climate on tourism patterns, the vulnerability of the tourism sector to climate change remains to be adequately assessed (Perry, 2000). Winter sports and in particular ski tourism seem to be one of the most dependent economic sectors on climatic conditions. Resorts and whole regions, which rely on this economic sphere, have become sensitive to the snow cover depth and duration as essential conditions for practicing this activity. Several reports have been conducted in order to assess and estimate effects of the climate change on winter tourism, by analysing the relationship patterns between climate and tourism.

Research carried by Koening and Abegg (1997) looked at the impacts of the three snow-deficient winters at the end of the 1980s on the winter tourism industry in Switzerland. Authors stated that ski resorts in lower altitude areas were highly exposed to the snow deficit thus suffered numerous consequences. Then again the ski slopes at higher altitudes benefited from the lack of snow in lower areas due to increased demand. The figures of the ski lift companies in higher areas increased significantly in years with poor snow conditions. Furthermore research which investigates the snow reliability under current climate conditions and under a 2ºC warming of the Swiss ski resorts, show that 85 per cent of the ski areas are snow-reliable merely under current climate conditions. However, this number is likely to drop to 63 per cent if the temperatures were to increase by 2ºC.

Similarly, Breiling and Charamza (1999) were convinced that climate change will alter snow cover depth which will have impacts on the winter tourism operations and skiing districts. Their research covers data of 30 winters from 1965 to 1995 across six Alpine regions in Austria and uses a model which describes seasonal snow-cover depth related to the resort altitude.  Data have been modified according to a scenario of temperature and precipitation change (2 °C warming, no precipitation change) and achieve a new simulated snow-cover depth, which remains between 47% and 79% of the previous snow cover.  A 2 °C warming implies a decrease in snow depth in all districts, but the loss is greater in lower altitude ski resorts. According to theorist’s scenario, the economic impacts will bring income losses and adaptation costs, but magnitude and time frame remain uncertain.

Climate change represents a real threat for the mountain ski resorts, especially for those situated at an altitude below 1500 m. Research by Surugiu et al. (2010) examines the low and medium altitude ski slopes looking at climate fluctuation and tourism activity in Predeal resort, one of the prime winter tourism destinations in Romania. Various analyses were conducted such as co-integration and regression models in order to enhance understanding of the climate effects on the tourism flows. Research highlights that tourism activity became vulnerable to meteorological characteristics and that the regression results indicate a negative association between temperatures and tourism, which means that an increase in air temperature will decrease tourism pattern. 

 

Vrtačnik Garbas (2007) expanded the area of research of climate change impacts on tourist demand. Research was conducted in selected ski resorts in Slovenia and employed methods of enquiry to determine skier’s perception of climate change and how this perception could potentially impact tourist resorts. The results of the survey showed that climate change would have a great influence on the structure of tourist demand and the frequency of visits. Authors believe that the decline of 50 percent of the current number of skiers would mean a vast loss of profit and the majority of small and medium sized ski resorts would probably stop operating. Thus changes in climate conditions have strong implications to influence tourist behaviour. Numerous literature resources on climate as a resource of tourism have affirmed that weather and climate elements are important in decision-making processes; they also explain how tourists, destinations and tourism businesses are affected by climate change (Yu et al 2009, Beckens 2010). Furthermore research indicates the factors which would influence skier’s decisions when choosing a destination, in case of snow deficient winters. Ski resorts with features such as artificial snowmaking, competitive ticket prices, arrangements of ski tracks, remoteness of ski centres, catering and hospitality offers, are more likely to stay competitive, simply because skiers will include these features in their decision-making process. However it is crucial to stress that these offers will not fully compensate for the deficit of snow which is fundamental for winter sport activities. According to the results of the survey, people who are directly responsible for the development of winter tourism in Slovenia were less conscious of climate change and issues associated than skiers which were well acquainted and aware of the potential consequences of climate change.

The Tourism industry tends to focus merely on marketing and the facilitation of economic growth.  However such ambitions of growth are likely to be at odds with international and national emission reduction aims. The Climate Change agenda and an increase of public awareness of the potential impacts of climate change enforced tourism stakeholders to become more involved in planning, adapting and responding to climate change (Nichollas and Holecek 2008). However the low awareness of the relevance of tourism sector to climate change and how the impacts could be addressed, lack of collaboration between relevant agencies and limited capacity of public sector resulted in little commitment to climate change aspects by the tourism sector in the past (Becken and Clapcott 2011). Nevertheless a study carried out by Duchosal (2007), which mainly involved ski resorts at low altitude in the French Alps, indicates that the majority of businesses are totally aware of the impacts of climate change but still do not know how to manage them due mostly to the lack of sufficient information. Those resorts totally rely on the winter season since the summer one is not profitable enough to sustain the revenue, thus all respondents do not envisage closing down the resorts even in the worst conditions.

2.4  Winter Sport Tourism and Market size

Mountain holidays are considered as being the third most popular way of spending leisure holidays in Europe; it is estimated to represent around 12 percent of the total market share. Figure 5 indicates the significance of mountain regions as the domestic tourist’s motivation in Poland.  Proportionally almost half of the journeys are taken in the winter season (Freitag 1996). It is expected that most of those winter mountain holidays are associated with winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Thus winter sports create a massive and very competitive market to all winter holiday destinations. 

 

Figure 5. Visited regions by domestic tourists in Poland (in %) (a) short 1-4 days, (b) 4-14 days

(a)

Visited region (%)

Domestic-short

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Mountains

   

18

 

23

 

Lake areas

   

16

 

13

 

Seaside

   

10

 

10

 

Cities

   

39

 

38

 

Others

   

28

 

23

 

 

  

(b)

Visited region (%)

Domestic-long

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Seaside

 

32

39

   

37

Mountains

   

25

   

27

Lake areas

   

18

   

16

Cities

   

19

   

21

Other

   

17

   

12

 

Source: Institute of Tourism. Available from: http://www.intur.com.pl/polacy.php?o=1&t1=3

 

The skiing market sector is estimated at around 70 million skiers and 11 million snowboarders worldwide. Europe accounts for approximately 30 million skiers including those who ski only within their own country (Hudson 2003). Data of ski resorts gathered by Snow24, combined with Lazard’s (1996) statistics about ski lifts and ski visitors, depicts the main winter holiday destinations (fig. 4). While Western European resorts remain the most popular skiing destinations, research carried out by Flagestad and Hope (2001) suggests that the number of ski visitors during the 1980s and 1990s indicate that the Western European ski market is stagnant. Nevertheless Eastern and Central European ski markets, including, Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria are exceptions. The Eastern and Central European market is characterised by rapid growth resulting in an average growth for the whole continent reaching 2.5% annually (Smith and Jenner 1999). Countries like Poland and Bulgaria, which previously were not associated with the worldwide famous ski destinations, appeared in a number of Swedish travel agencies. Moreover both countries remain relatively good value for money due to the weak currency which resulted in a high visitor turnover, in particular among families and mix ability groups. Poland in particular could have chance to emerge globally as the main Eastern European winter holiday destination since the Polish resort of Tatra Mountains and Slovakia joined forces to increase chances in staging the Winter Olympics in 2022. This event could have boost the development, quality and promotion of the region and could increase the number of visitors to the Eastern parts of Europe.

Figure 4. Skiing Worldwide

Country

Resorts

Lifts

Skiers Visits (million)

Japan

   

75

France

   

56

United States

   

57

Austria

   

43

Italy

   

37

Switzerland

   

31

Canada

   

17

Germany

   

20

Sweden

   

12

Norway

   

8

Czech Republic

   

4.8

Spain

   

4.3

Australia

18

139

2.6

Finland

117

505

2.0

Poland

71

110

2.0

Source: (Hudson 2003)


The Polish skiing sector has been established for decades, however for a long period it catered merely for the domestic market. Approximately 20 percent of Poles stated that they went skiing at least once a year (Zemla 2008). The turning point occurred when Poland became a member of the European Union (EU) and consequently the popularity of the outbound and inbound ski tourism increased. The opening of Polish borders under the Schengen agreement, the opening of the Polish air space to low-cost airlines and the development of the main road systems gave a boost to tourism in Poland. The European integration process has changed the operational conditions of most ski resorts in Western and Central Europe: they were given an opportunity to enter new markets but also had to face new competitors. It is a very challenging task for Polish ski resorts which were accustomed to depend on domestic tourism. The big quality gap between Polish and foreign ski resorts puts pressure on the Polish ski resorts which will need to evolve and adopt strategies to remain competitive internationally. Polish ski-resorts are extremely overcrowded and a 20 minute queue for a ski lift is nothing out of the ordinary. This is due to the high popularity of skiing in a country with a very limited supply of mountainous areas. As a result, ski lift operators do not seek to improve their services as their income is dependent, almost completely, on weather conditions. Hence, Poland has many small ski-areas with appalling infrastructure and poor quality of service, which partly explains why there are almost no foreign tourists on the slopes. Polish skiers have not been very demanding and have accepted the offer as long as it was provided at a reasonable price. Nevertheless, since Polish ski resorts have become more expensive than other neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Czech Republic, Polish ski resorts could face a very competitive market environment. It will be a challenging task for most of the Polish ski resorts to adjust suitably to the new trends, especially when they were used to having a full occupancy rate on the slopes, as long as there were good snow conditions. Some of the ski operators have already started to adapt to the market challenges by improving existing and developing new ski areas. This includes both quantitative growth, represented by the increasing number of ski facilities, and qualitative growth, connected with the growing number of high standard lifts, snow guns and service quality.

 

3. Methodology

This chapter represents and justifies the research methods which were undertaken in order to pursue previously defined objectives. To understand the research question more effectively it is necessary to employ the secondary and primary research techniques.  The report used a multi-method approach of the research which included more than one method of collecting data which therefore allows for an ample understanding of the researched topic (Veal, 2006). The research strategy encompasses the quantitative and qualitative methods to obtain the social opinions together with basic statistics.

 

3.1 Secondary research

A wide range of the academic reports have been studying the climate changes in order to have a better understanding on the impacts of global warming and the potential negative outcomes which could affect ski resorts in the future. These evidences would help to justify the needs to adopt the alternative strategies for the ski lift operators. To specify the evidence of global warming to the researched area, interviews were conducted with the Institute of Meteorology in Zakopane to determine the historical data of the temperature and snow cover thickness. However due to the institute’s regulations in order to obtain those statistics a purchase was required. Lack of disposable finance compels to obtain those records from the other resources such as: previous researches, graphic analysis and other temperature simulators and this are evaluated in the literature review. These data figures are still relevant and accurate however are not up to date like previously intended.  Furthermore secondary research determines the overall development of the tourism industry in Poland and it is assessing, with an emphasis in particular on the winter tourism sector, to determine the importance of this industry in terms of the economic aspects. Still it is a challenging task to evaluate the economic benefits of tourism industry due to the complex structure, intersectional links and the different stakeholder’s interests. Nevertheless the purpose of this research is to emphasise the significance of the winter holiday market not only from the ski lift operator’s point of view but also from the local residents perspective whose income rely on this industry. Thus the bigger consciousness of the future climate trends should be taken into consideration to develop adaptive plans by the ski resorts to keep them open.

 

3.2 Primary research

 

3.2.1. Interviews

Interviews are a form of qualitative research and are one of the main data collection methods used by social researchers, as a Hammersley and Atkinson (1995) stated: ‘the expressive power of language provides the most important resource for accounts. A crucial feature of language is its capacity to present descriptions, explanation and evaluation …’

Unstructured, in depth interviews were used to gain information from the ski lift operators on their opinions concerning the issues of impacts of climate change on the winter sport tourism and the implications of these issues. It is crucial to determine the ski lift operator’s perception as their operations are directly affected by climate changes and thus the tourism pattern is highly dependent on this. This method was useful for investigating participant’s opinions and to discuss the topics and answer the questions in their own way using their own words. The method tends to have flexible agenda with a list of themes to be discussed which makes the interview more informative and open (Jennings 2005). Freedom for the respondent to answer freely is important in giving them a feeling of control in the interview situation. However this version also has its disadvantages, specifically in terms of the time consuming of collecting and analysing the results (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:139). Open questions used in this unstructured interview approach can cause confusion either because of the lack of understanding of the question by the informant or by the lack of understanding of the respondent's answer by the interviewer (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:140). Nevertheless, open-ended questions are very important. Gray (1987) demonstrated this in her study when participants wanted to tell their stories, opinions and perceptions therefore needing open-ended questions to enable them to talk freely (Jensen and Jankowski 1991). There are clearly advantages and disadvantages for using any interview method. It allows questioning to be directed as we want it and we can elucidate points that need to be made clearer. The technique does however rely on the respondent being willing to give accurate and full answers (Breakwell, Hammond and Fife-Schaw 1995). They could frequently lie due to feelings of nervousness, memory loss or confusion. On the contrary, they may also provide very elaborate answers in an attempt to figure out the purpose of the study (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:162). Validity and reliability of the interview data may be influenced by these (Breakwell, Hammond and Fife-Schaw 1995:238-239).

The interview was divided across topics such as: skiing history, trends and tourism patterns, ski resort development, and the issues of climate change and adaptation to climate change and shifting in tourism trends. Face to face Interviews were carried out in three different ski resorts within close vicinity to each other (map.3). Two of the resorts are considered as low altitude ski centres, and one is consider as high altitude and is the highest ski resort in Poland.  First interview (map 3, interviewer S1) was arranged with an owner of the ski resort, thus the information gathered during the meeting was more detailed in terms of the history of the skiing pattern. The second interview on the other hand (map 3, interviewer B2) was arranged by the owner of the ski resort with the operational manager which was employed three years ago. Nevertheless, since he has been highly concerned about the environmental importance for the future of the business, his sustainable approaches to winter tourism drew interesting future adoptions to climate change. The high altitude ski operator set up the interview with the employee from the head office who has been working for the company for the last 13 years (map 3, interviewer K3).

Except the ski lift operators, an unstructured interview with the mountain rescue team was carried out to verify the number of casualties and reported accidents involving skiers. This study could indicate the current popularity of the skiing and snowboarding activities in Tatra County.

Interviews are a method which are characterised by interactive processes between interviewer and interviewee, which means that it should include observing and listening to the interviewee as well as recording notes. One of the methods of recording data is using a voice recorder which is most suitable during the interview and useful afterwards when it comes to analysing the results. However audio recording was not permitted by the Interviewers and the alternative way of taking notes was the method undertaken in order to record the data for the evaluation and conclusion. In this case, key points and aspects were noted during the interview in order to sustain an interactive discussion. After the interview the full conversation was written up by drawing on the notes and from recall of the interview content.

 

3.2.2.    Questionnaire

In order to find out statistics and opinions about the skiing and snowboarding activity trends during the last five years, questionnaires and surveys were used as a method of collecting data from the local ski schools. The importance of this data could indicate to what extent popularity of skiing and snowboarding, as a main activity of the winter sport tourism, has changed over the specified period. Ski schools will be directly affected by the climate fluctuation as their income merely depends on the number of skiers that use their services.

As Holmes (2009) stated, ‘Questionnaires are inexpensive and a quick way to produce and complete’. Since the budget and time to conduct this report was limited this method of data collecting seemed to be the most appropriate. It did not cost anything and did not take too much time because the questionnaires were carried out via electronic mail. However, the time period required to collect e-mail interview data differs. Some researchers reported a delay of several months before data collection was completed, while others completed within a week. This variation occurs because it may take days or weeks before a respondent replies to an e-mail message.

The length of the data collection period depends on several factors, including: the number of questions asked, the degree of commitment or motivation of the participants, the quantity and quality of data gathered, and access to the Internet. Some studies show that the longer it takes to complete an interview with a participant, the higher the possibility of dropouts or frustration to both the researcher and the interviewees (Hodgson, 2004).

The survey included a number of open and closed questions, open questions allow the participant to expatiate on their answer, where closed questions contain options to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or to choose preferable answers.

Nine ski schools were identified and questionnaires were sent to all of them via the internet. It is likely that more ski schools or independent instructors are present in the region however they have not been recognized. Since Brent (2004) points out that 30 is the minimum number of questionnaires that should be obtained in terms of producing efficient statistics, due to the limited amount of ski schools this number could not be achieved.  Henderson (1990) argued that a response rate of 20-30 per cent is fairly typical for a mail survey. A relatively good rate of response (5 out of 9) on surveys made valuable and sufficient data to elaborate. This could be due to the anonymous nature of e-questionnaires, since many people perceive online communication as anonymous because there is no in-person contact hence, little accountability. This anonymity may explain why some people are more eager to take part in e-mail surveys (Hodgson, 2004).

 

4.  Result presentation and discussion

This chapter analyses data collected during the field study. Interviews and questionnaires will be presented jointly since some questions are articulated to the same topics. The results will be presented in according themes: ski trends and winter tourism sector nowadays, climate change and its impacts on the winter tourism in Tatra County, and strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The map below illustrates the location of the interviewed ski lift operators and each coloured cloud indicate particular interviewer which will be quoted in the further sections.

Map 3. Location of interviewed ski resort in Tatra County  

Map 3
 

4.1 Skiing trends and winter tourism in Tatra County nowadays

The numbers of skiers and snowboarders are having a greater influence on the prosperity of the ski operators and related businesses. In fact they provide the direct contribution of the income to the ski resorts. In the literature review by Zemla (2008) it is stated that a big proportion of Poles are taking part in skiing activities, nevertheless this study should expand and include the important aspects such as:  joining the UE and opening the European boarders, introduction of low coast airfares, changes in climate conditions and tourist’s motivations; which are having a direct impact on domestic tourism market. The numbers of Poles traveling within the country decreased significantly since 2006 (fig. 5) This trend may have long term implications, since the outbound tourism increased and the forecasts made by the Polish Tourism Institute suggests the continuing in rising patterns of Poles traveling abroad (fig. 6)

 

Figure 5. Domestic trips by Poles in 2006 and 2011 (in millions)

Figure 5
Source: Institute of Tourism.

 

Figure 6. Polish outbound tourism forecast (in millions)

Figures 6
Source: Institute of Tourism.

 

The results from the e-questionnaires suggest that the 80 per cent of the respondents from the ski schools are unhappy about the last five years of the winter sessions, reminded that 20 per cent corresponds to one ski school representative stating that it has not changed significantly (fig. 7).

 

Figure 7. Ski school level of satisfaction last 5 winter seasons

Figure 7 

Despite that the minority of the respondents indicate the climate variables could affect those trends, the majority are favourable that: the increase of the numbers of the ski resorts and ski schools in south Poland, the inexpensive cost of the airfare tickets which creates new tourism patterns and the overall skiing market downturn, are the factors that have the greatest impacts on the prosperity of skiing sectors according to the ski schools (fig. 8).

 

Figure 8. Factors impacting ski schools

Figure 8 

The numbers of the people taking lessons and using the services of the ski schools slightly dropped or stay at the same level (fig. 9). All of ski schools employ skiing instructors, which for most of them will be seasonal jobs as the skiing season lasts up to 6 months, thus the importance of the employment can appear crucial in terms of the livelihood of those individuals who depend on the employment in winter tourism sectors. Yet the statistics show that most of the ski schools employ the same number of instructor as they had in the past (fig.10). Those findings from the ski schools works as an indicator of the skiing trends, and they could give the insight of the present and the future of the skiing sector. The mature, professional and hobbyist’s skiers do not use the services offered by those schools, simply because they have already acquired those skills. Although the decreasing numbers of the participants to ski schools could have effects on the future of the ski resorts as less skiers could be present.

 

Figure 9. Numbers of ski school participants

Figure 9 

 

Figure 10. Number of employed instructors.

Figure 10

 

Interviews with ski operators gave a slightly different angle on the issue. Both of the low altitude ski operators stated that they are satisfied with the last five years of the winter seasons and the numbers of skiers are increasing year by year. The ski resort in ‘Spytkowice’ achieved a steady but significant increase in the revenue for the last five years, thus the new development took place and the upgrade of the ski lifts contributed to the quality of the skiing experience and to increase the skiers throughput on the ski lift. The majority of the skiers and snowboarders who visited the ski resort in Spytkowice are domestic visitors, both locals and from outside the region. An advantage of this ski operator is that it is situated furthest from the main hub of Zakopane and closest for the visitors from inland. The owner of the resort emphasized that many visitors do not wish to drive further down south to the overcrowded resorts.  Nevertheless he feels anxious, as plans for development of a new ski resort, closer to Cracow has been introduced and this could have an effect on the number of visitors in the future, similarly to the ski schools as competitors were the factors which influence schools prosperity the most.

 

Bialka Tatrzanska resort expanded hugely throughout the last few years, and has experienced high popularity among the winter sport enthusiasts. The ski centre’s manager stated that the last five years have been very prosperous for the resort as additional ski lifts have been developed; new tourist products have been introduced and new innovative business enterprises have been commercialised. Due to the rising number of foreigners visiting the resort, the quality of service has been put as the priority of the business strategy for the next few years. An executive pointed out that for the last two years the number of visitors from abroad increased; from the eastern parts of Europe during the Orthodox holidays and from the western parts as Poles living elsewhere visited home land with their new foreign colleagues, friends and family.  

 

The highest resort in Poland; Kasprowy Wierch in Zakopane village has been established as a main skiing hub in the country. In the 1930s this ski resort was one of the most popular in Eastern Europe, with four different ski slopes. Nevertheless for the last decade of 20th century development, of the new low altitude ski centres have put a greater pressure on the resort in order to maintain the tourist numbers and the image of the ‘winter capital of Poland’. The huge advantage of this resort is that it is operating throughout the year. During the summer the main cable car is running and visitors can do a round trip or one way and walk down or up another. While during the winter only two remaining ski lifts are operating on top of the mountain. The interviewer acknowledged that the number of skiers and snowboarders went down enormously in the last ten years; still the overall number of visitors had not decreased significantly as the mountain is highly visited by non skier tourists.

 

The greatest decrease according to the interviewee tends to be noted among the families. An increase in the numbers of the ski resorts in Tatra County with varying levels of difficulty for skiers, better quality of the infrastructure within the resort and the led by ski slopes running during the night seems to be the main reason to attract vast amounts of families and winter holidaymakers. The fact that Kasprowy Wierch is a mountain within the National Park, any additional development of the infrastructure for skiers is limited due to the law regulations. Other important factors which could affect the declining numbers of skiers and snowboarders on Kasprowy Wierch could be the relatively high ski pass prices, compared to the Slovakian resorts which operate within a 100 kilometre radius from Zakopane. The Interviewee stressed that they collaborate with the Slovakian main resorts and information indicate an increase of the polish skiers and snowboarders in Slovakian Tatra Mountains. Nevertheless this study should be taken into consideration and more details explored.   Poor numbers of skiers was also confirmed by one of the mountain rescue team members, who has been interviewed at the mountain rescue team station on the Kasprowy Wierch. The interviewee admitted that for the last two years there has not been many rescue interventions during the winter season with fewer skiers or snowboarder’s participation. Two seasons have been investigated and as previously stated there has been a decreased number of interventions on Kasprowy Wierch and an increased number in low altitude resort such as, Bialka Tatrzanska ski resort (fig. 11).

 

Figure 11. Numbers of rescue intervention by mountain rescue team.
Figure 11

 

Information gathered in this section helps to assess how: skiing, ski resorts and other related industries operate currently and how this could affect the future of the winter tourism sector. The results from the ski schools indicate the overall downturn in the ski tourism demand; however it should not be merely based on those findings. Some ski schools which did not answer on the survey could eventually run without any loses, and also it has not been researched about any individual ski instructors which probably also could operate independently across the region. In terms of current financial recession for some people ski schools could be an additional and unaffordable expense to the overall skiing holiday expenditure. Thus for some individuals it would be preferable to try to self educate, or ski with a fellow who already knows how to ski rather than using ski school services. Nevertheless the reasons why the skiing sector may face those issues do not refer to the climate conditions and impacts of climate change. Also the information gathered from the rescue teams are sufficient and relevant, however the advance in technology and access to the better equipment could affect the decreasing numbers of injuries on the Kasprowy Wierch. Still the number of the rescue interventions did not decrease in other resorts. As more accidents are happening in Bialka Tatrzanska it reflects on the success of the ski resorts.

 

4.2 Climate change and its impact on winter tourism on high and low altitude ski resort in Poland.


The comprehensive literature review pointed out the evidence of global warming and the effects of climate change. The questionnaire results from ski schools indicated that climate change played a minor role in the factors which could affect skiing in  Poland. Nevertheless the studies which have been evaluated throughout literature review indicated that the climate change has or surely will have a vast impact on the winter tourism sector. All researched ski centres admitted that they were not concerned greatly about climate change while conducting the business plan for their resorts. Nevertheless they stated that some anxiety arose due to the deeper concern of scientists, government and the public itself about the potential impacts of climate change. Kasprowy Wierch has its meteorological station on the top of the mountain and an interviewee acknowledged that the mean air temperature is increasing each year, and the strongest rise in temperature is observed in particular throughout the winter season (fig. 12).

 

Figure 12. Mean air temperature on Kasprowy Wierch (1951-2006)

Figure 12 

Source (K3, 2013)

 

These calculations in changes of mean yearly air temperature form Kasprowy Wierch proved progressive winter warming from -2.4°C (1980–1981) to 1.2°C (2000- 2001). The trend direction in this case is indicating the size of the monthly changes in temperature, and throughput the 56 years of the research temperature increased by 0.7°C. If those trends will be continuing, together with an increase of the GHG emission to the atmosphere, the temperature forecasts by Gorski and Kozyra (2011) could eventually be on the agenda. An increase in the mean air temperature has an impact on the snow cover and as a consequence on the quality of skiing activities. The insight of the last three winter seasons in terms of snow cover suggests that a high inconsistency in the snow cover put pressure on the skiing activity in the highest ski resort in Poland.  As one of the strategies to overcome this issue could be the adoption of artificial snowmaking, however the use of this technology is difficult to implement on Kasprowy Wierch for the economic and environmental reasons which will be explained in the next section. Thus the years with snow deficit could decrease the tourism demand and as stated by Vrtačnik Garbas (2007) in a literature review, tourist’s behaviours will alter and those ski resorts with the artificial snowmaking could gain from the changes in snow conditions on Kasprowy Wierch. 

 

An interviewee emphasizes that an increase in the occurrences of the strong warm and dry foehn winds, blowing throughout the northern slopes became a threat for the Tatra Mountains. As pleasant as a sudden burst of warm weather can be for many people, foehns are bad news for businesses such as ski resorts. One of the many nicknames for foehn winds is ‘snow eater’ and for good reasons: the warm, dry winds quickly melt the winter snow and often result in flooding, and in a lot of slush. Several times the cable car on Kasprowy Wierch had to be closed down due to the high wind speed.

 

An increase in mean air temperature observed by Domonkos and Piotrowicz (1998) in meteorological stations in Cracow acceded to identify the continuing rise in the air temperature in south Poland. Despite the overall satisfaction of both low altitude ski resorts referred to, both resorts acknowledged that an increase of the temperature is a massive threat for the ski slopes. An artificial snowmaking technology has been introduced in order to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, and both resorts ascertained that they have been spending more income each year to accommodate the artificial snow in their ski slopes.

 

One of the greatest threats and impacts of climate change is an increase in the number of weather anomalies. As an interviewee from Kasprowy Wierch stated that the foehn winds occurred more frequently in the last decades which have an effect on the tourist’s experience. On the other hand the interviewees from Spytkowice and Bialka Tatrzanska, accented the issues of droughts at present which prevent the artificial snowmaking operations. The meteorological observations indicate that in the last 25 years the number of droughts in Poland has increased. Records show that between 1982-2006 droughts occurred 13 times, compared to the 6 droughts in 1951-1981 (Lorenc 2006). These figures show that the frequency of droughts in Poland has doubled. It is a threat which could have long run implications in the way the low altitude ski resorts operate.

According to the interviewees, an increase of the air temperature and wind occurrence, decrease in snow cover depth and frequent droughts are the most visible impacts of climate change on the researched area so far. Those events started to amplify their occurrence in the last few years, yet as report by Duchosal (2007), most of the ski resorts do not know how to tackle those issues in order to adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

4.3 Strategies to adopt and mitigate to climate change

 

In sections above, several negative effects of climate change which influence the ski resorts in Poland have been highlighted, since research by Surugiu et al. (2010) suggest that with an increase in negative effects of climate change the decrease in tourism pattern is likely to alter. Applying this theory it is in ski operators interests to adapt to the negative impacts of climate variability and to come up with strategies to mitigate those impacts for both, skier’s satisfaction and to maintain the revenue.

 

Artificial snow making is the most common adaptation strategy used by ski resorts to maintain good snow efficiency (Burki et Al., 2005). Artificial snow is used to enlarge the operating season and to increase the range of climate variability. Artificial snow making used to be interpreted as a luxury that only some ski areas could afford. Yet nowadays it appears to be viewed as a necessity. Snow cannons are used in most of the low altitude ski resorts if it is applicable and certification is issued. Spytkowice and Bialka Tatrzanska resorts have developed this method ever since. Nevertheless, even this method has some limitations with the most important being access to the water resources and appropriate temperature which is below zero degrees. Due to the frequent droughts as indicated in the section above, the water resources became very limited to accommodate huge demand of all ski resorts which support their slopes with snow canons. Manager of Bialka Tatrzanska resort acknowledged that the last two years have been pretty dry thus the water resources were running out at a dizzying pace and government authorities had to designate a specific water allowance law for each resort. As a result of those droughts some of the ski resorts were forced to close down for several days during the high season.  Moreover, the deficit of water also touched the local residents who also did not have access to the water resources in Tatra County.

 

 

 

On the slopes of Kasprowy Wierch the artificial snowmaking is not utilized, yet artificial snow production is technically possible, but only using water sources distant from the slopes. This development is costly and needs a new technical infrastructure to changes in the outflow balance of the drainage basins. The examination of the potential effects on the nature of the artificial snowing of the ski slopes of Kasprowy Wierch has revealed that possible admittance of this activity would result in significant, strong nature changes, worsening the natural conditions (Kot 2010). It is, therefore Kasprowy Wierch which relies entirely on the natural snow precipitation and any changes in snow depth could affect the visitors demand and motivations.

 

Vrtačnik Garbas (2007) proposed his hypothesis that the ski centres with additional development of infrastructures, attractions and other features are likely to stay competitive under the climate change issues while enhancing and maintaining ski resort revenue. Also resorts have made substantial investments to attract the growing market of non-skiers. A research by Guillot, (2006) demonstrates that in France, an average skier is skiing four hours per day, and that one out of four visitors in French ski resorts do not ski at all. Seeing that Kasprowy Wierch resort meets several obstacles to implements artificial snow technology and sufficient infrastructure for winter holidaymakers, the executive team focus on the strategies to enhance numbers of summertime visitors. While the low altitude ski resorts such as Bialka Tatrzanska expanded their resort portfolio of: health and spa tourism with thermal spring pools, opening of a new hotel with features to attract business tourism, and running the production of their own snow canons and trading to other ski operators. On the other hand Spytkowice resort is highly popular among the families due to their variety of amenities for youngsters and their parents in the ski centre where a couple of Ski lifts with flat slopes create a safer experience for children and piece of mind for parents.

 

Spytkowice resort developed a new strategy scheme which is operating from this season onwards. Ski operators engaged in cooperation with other ski resorts within neighbouring Counties, as one of the tactics to adapt to climate changes. The main concept of this strategy is that skiers can purchase a single ski pass which allows them to use several other resorts. The owner of Spytkowice ski centre pointed out that those multi-resorts ski passes are becoming popular, as skiers can experience different ski slopes with a variety of difficulty levels. Moreover, different ski centres can have diverse slope conditions and with this ski pass skiers have flexibility in terms of choosing where to ski.

 

5Conclusion

 

5.1 Summary of findings

 

Since IPCC revealed facts about global warming and indicated that those trends are continuing to rise, greater concern has been given to this phenomenon in order to establish potential cost and benefits of climate change impacts. The tourism industry in particular is highly exposed to those effects as some sectors in tourism could gain or lose revenue due to the negative impacts of climate variability. Thus climate change represents a challenge for the tourism activity in the 21st century and especially for the ski resorts where the Northern Hemisphere is in particular submitted to global warming. As Sergio Savoia, director of World Wide Fund for Nature, European Alpine Program in Bellinzona, stated that ‘Low-attitude ski resorts will simply go out of business, and skiers will have to go higher and higher to find snow’. The fact that most of the Polish Ski resorts are low altitude this theories could harmful several ski resorts, this study was conducted to investigate whether or not this statements have implications.

The aim of this paper was to establish to what degree the impact of climate change has affected the low and high altitude ski resorts in Tatra County in Poland and to investigate what type of strategies have been undertaken by those ski operators in order to mitigate and adapt to the climate variability’s nowadays. Also throughout the study the importance of winter tourism market has been stressed as it plays a crucial role to the polish economy.

From the research it can be seen that despite the indicator of climate change such as: an increase in mean air temperature, increase of droughts and decrease of the winter seasons, the ski resorts operate successfully. Nevertheless the huge skier’s loss can be found in Kasprwoey Wierch resort which belongs to the group of high altitude ski slopes. Applying those findings to the theories highlighted in the literature review which indicate that, high altitude ski resorts will be a winner and would increase the number of visitors due to the poor skiing conditions compared to low altitude ski slopes, are contradictory. The results of the interviews confirm the theories that the ski resorts with a good infrastructure development and additional attractions on slopes will stay competitive on the market, such as resorts in Spytkowice and Bialak Tatrzanska. The management of both ski centres express their concern about negative effects of climate change, but they are convinced that as the temperature below 0°C will remain throughout the winter season they will still operate with or without natural precipitation, as the new technology of artificial snowmaking is widely available. In fact the interviewers of low altitude ski slopes indicated that in the past they were never force to shut down ski lifts due to the lack of snow throughout the season, while the numbers of days where Kasprowy Wierch was closed due to either, lack of snow or strong winds, increased. The results from the questionnaire suggests that there has been a decreasing trend in participating in skiing activities, as the ski schools attendance has declined. These findings could have a long running implication for ski resorts as the numbers of new skiers will remain unstable. Additionally the information gathered from the mountain rescue teams show that skiing activity is decreasing on Kasprowy Wierch and shifting to the low altitude ski resorts which is a common pattern nowadays. It seems that the strategies to adapt to climate change are easier to achieve in the low altitude ski resorts, as there have been numerous limitations for Kasprowy Wierch resort. This is likely to have an impact on the decreasing numbers of skiers, although it may change in the future, if any new strategies to adapt to climate change would be presented. 

 

Numerous studies have been conducted on the issue of climate change and possible outcomes which could affect winter tourism sector. Most of these reports are mainly predicting those impacts for the next few decades (Steiger and Stotter 2013; Hendrikx et al 2013). Nevertheless few of them are actually indicating evidences which are occurring at present and developing strategies in order to adapt or mitigate those impacts. Report by Burakowski and Magnusson (2012) indicates socio-economic impacts of climate change which strives New Hampshire region in United States, where ski resort industry is estimated to have lost $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years over the last decade (November 1999 - April 2010). Additionally the employment impact is a loss of between 13,000 to 27,000 jobs. In European Alps due to the poor weather condition some ski station has been shut down. Abondance is the French Alps' first ski station to fall apparent victim to impacts of climate change where snow fell only 20 days in 2011 and town officials have been seeking private buyers for the ski area for several years with no big interest from investors. In order to prevent further shut downs ski resorts are determined to underline further strategies to adapt to climate change, in their development plans. An advance in technology is a crucial factor for ski resort in order to stay competitive and to remain good ski conditions for visitors. Firstly, an artificial snowmaking is the most common strategy. Study by Scott et all (2006) point out that, snowmaking was found to extend the average ski season in Eastern North America by between 55-120 days. However there are serious concerns in this practices which are discussed in the next paragraph. Secondly weather derivatives introduced since 1990 did not gain much enthusiasm, until 1999 as Asian market concern, and structured a weather derivative scheme to protect against low snowfall in the Japanese ski resort Nagano. Under the deal concluded with Nagano ski resort, the minimum number of skiing days was 15 in a period of two months between December 1 and January 31. A skiing day meant a day where snow depth was above 10 centimetres. For every skiing-day below 15, the resort received 10 million yens from SocGen, up to a total of 150 million. For skiing days above 15, the resort would then have to pay SocGen a similar amount per day, but that was offset by a rise in sales due to increased skiing potential. Thirdly, Revenue Diversification is one of the key strategies to develop new compelling entertainment offerings which cater to the non-skiing consumer. For instance, in Switzerland, stations at lower altitudes are trying to lure visitors for dry toboggan runs, "wellness" treks, or for taking lifts above the cloud line to enjoy the sunshine. While more passive activities involve high-end day spas, retail shopping, indoor pools, and fine dining establishment. Some of the large ski operators tend to acquire or develop resort in dissimilar geographical locations such us Booth Creek, the fourth largest ski resort owner in North America. In 2004/2005 due to the poor snow condition in the Pacific Northwest at Summit at Snoqualmie company could relocate employees to their two California resorts and honoured Summit at Snoqualmie season passes at other resorts in their portfolio thus reduce some of the financial losses. Last but not least is an importance of cooperation for climate adaptation in tourism between relevant stakeholders. In order for cooperative initiatives for climate adaptations to be successful, individual actors within a tourism region must first of all find a motivation to engage in activities which lead to climate change adaptation. In may 2013 more than 100 ski areas sign climate declaration, calling for United States policy action on climate change.


As indicated above, the huge deficit of snowfall and decreasing length of snow cover in recent years, forced ski slope operators to adopt suitable strategies in order to stay competitive on the market.  Research by Rixen et all (2011) showed that, under climate change scenarios, the average ski season is expected to be reduced by 37-57% by 2050, threatening the winter sport tourism industry. For these reasons, ski lift operators have invested significantly in artificial snowmaking technology to assure reliable snowcover and maintain the snow season as long as it is possible. With snowmaking technology, the average season is expected to be reduced by 7-32% by 2050. While snow making during dry winters can temporarily solve economic issues, it also brings environmental consequences. Snow making machines require low temperatures, air compressors and water pumps that are both very large and expensive. The production of artificial snow itself needs large amounts of energy and water. Water defeat linked with artificial snowmaking across the Alps is comparable to the annual water consumption of a city with 500,000 populations. Furthermore, this demanding use of water for artificial snow production and tourism occurs when water levels are usually at their lowest level. According to interviewer at the ski resort in Bialka Tatrzanska additional investment has been dedicated to purchase snow making equipment such as tanks, pipelines, etc. in order to storage or transport water beforehand. However those equipments alters landscapes and the ecosystem, and a great deal of energy is required for water transportation. Another significant environmental concern which, contribute considerably to the ski resorts operating expenses, is power consumption. The use of snow canons, air system and water pumps require big amount of energy. 10,000 snow making guns consume 108 million of kWh each season. Similarly, the pumps that provide water to the snow canons are often run by diesel engines, which expel a high level of air pollution. Thus for instance Vermont (USA) has the best air quality of any state, snow making machines produce a large proportion of the state's air pollution. In Vermont, ski resorts produce 25 percent of pollutants, boosting levels of smog and acid rain. Furthermore artificial snow is, four times denser, fifth times harder and heavier than natural snow, which have a propensity to waterproof the soil that it covers and makes soil erosion easier. Artificial snow delays the seasonal defrost, occurring quite later for ski resorts which have snow making technology. According to study by Wipf et all (2005) ski resorts have a direct impact on local bird communities and density, contributing to the modification of their habitat and food sources. A main food source for many bird species is invertebrates, whose population decreases with the development of artificial snow and longer snow cover.

 

5.2 Critical analysis of the study

Interviews have been arranged straight after the examination period and before the new semester to allow enough time to properly interpret the data gathered and apply it to the report. It was intended to interview 7 different ski resort with different ski slopes altitude. However this time scale has been underestimated due to the fact that this period was the busiest time in Poland considering the winter holidays. This incoherence had an unpredictable consequence, also a heavy snow fall made it difficult to move freely on the roads leading the interview appointment to be postponed by the other parties for several days and to limit those interviews to three. To avoid those issues it would be preferable to conduct the study in a different period than peak season. In terms of the weather disruptions it is difficult for a researcher to predict atmospheric conditions and despite that most of the ski lift operators run throughout the winter, a different time of the year could affect the quantity and quality of the research findings.


5.3 Recommendation for further research

For future studies, it might be of interest to research the tourist’s perspectives and their motivation to participate in winter sport tourism in the spot light of the impacts of climate change and how tourists would adapt to those changes. As so far it is tourists who have the greatest adaptive capacity of all those involved in the tourism sector; however there is a little interest among those who travel the most to modify their travel patterns in order to minimise the negative effects of climate change. Changes in tourism behaviour could be the greatest challenge to reduce their contribution to the GHG emissions. Research by Becken (2007) indicates that many tourists are reluctant to give up their privilege of travelling and tourists concerns over the climate change are unlikely to stop them from travelling. However those perspectives could change together with an increase of awareness and educational factors.

 

About the Author
Andrzej Bil is a recent graduate from the University of the West of England, UK where he obtained a BA degree in Tourism Management. He seeks to apply his knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable tourism development. Andrzej's areas of interest include International Tourism Development, National Parks, Event Management and Research.

 

 

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