New design of indoor ski slope © Commune de Tignes
The popular French ski resort of Tignes is planning to build an indoor ski slope at an altitude of 2000m to compensate for the melting snow and shorter ski seasons it’s been facing over the last few decades. Inspired by the indoor ski slope in Dubai, the “Ski Line” at Tignes would measure 420m and be located next to the Tichot lift on the Val Claret slalom slope. The proposal has met with backlash from local residents, who argue that an indoor ski slope would compromise the natural beauty of the mountains. The project is under revision but if it’s approved, construction on the indoor ski slope could begin as early as 2019.
Tignes is currently one of the most snow-sure ski resorts in France, with skiing 9 months a year thanks to the high-altitude slopes on the Grande Motte glacier (3650m). It’s a popular summer ski area and training ground for ski racers. But they can’t forget their glory days, when it was possible to ski all year round. The glacier has lost 30% of its snow cover in the last few decades and year-round skiing hasn’t been possible since the year 2000. Despite last year’s bumper season, it appears the threat of global warming is real.
The indoor ski slope would once again make it possible to ski at Tignes 365 days a year. There would also be a wave pool inside the facility with waves up to 3m high, plus a shopping mall and a Club Med hotel. The project is in line with a push by many ski resorts across the Alps to find alternate activities that don’t rely on snow. France, especially, has seen a reduction in winter sports tourism in recent years and is forced to turn to alternate activities to lure tourists to its ski areas.
Tignes currently relies on 355 snow cannons and has seen the energy bills for its snow cannons increase by 30% in recent years. Amidst concerns over the irony of fighting the effects of climate change by creating a huge energy-guzzling installation, Tignes has stated that the proposed ski slope would be powered by hydroelectricity from a nearby dam and get its power from solar panels. In the winter, they would cart in real snow from the surrounding ski slopes; in the summer, artificial snow cannons would be busy at work all night making snow.
The Swiss federal government office predicts that by 2050, all the small-to-medium-sized glaciers in Europe will have melted. Meanwhile, France Météo reports that in line with rising temperatures, the average snowfall in the Col de Porte mountain pass in Isère has dropped by 14cm – a typical pattern in ski resorts across France. Today, a third of French ski resorts and over half of Austrian ski resorts rely on artificial snow to keep in business. Artificial snow cannons, which were originally conceived as a backup measure on the off-chance that there wasn’t enough snow cover, are now increasingly seen as an integral part of a ski resort. The danger is twofold: in addition to using huge quantities of water and electricity, this temporary bandaid make it easy for us to “forget” about global warming, an attitude that is certainly not sustainable if we want to keep skiing over the next few decades. The French Court of Audit has called for measures to be taken to counteract climate change, stating that if serious steps aren’t taken soon, lower- and mid-altitude ski resorts won’t be viable businesses in the near future.
While the project was approved in theory back in 2016, it’s been put on hold due to the fierce backlash from the local residents, who view the idea of an indoor ski slope in Tignes as an abomination. Citing environmental as well as scenic concerns, they complain that the project would be a total “Disneyfication” of the mountain. A petition was brought forth to the mayor and plans are currently being revised. The new artist’s sketch of the indoor ski slope shows it integrating much better into the natural environment. Originally scheduled to open this year, Tignes has pushed the project date back and is now hoping to start construction of the indoor ski slope in 2019, assuming it manages to find financial backers to fund the required €62 million.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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