Ski season 'shortened by changes in climate'

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Tour operators are poised to pull out of some of Europe's most popular ski resorts due to increasingly unreliable snowfall caused by climate change, an industry report says.

Tour operators are poised to pull out of some of Europe's most popular ski resorts due to increasingly unreliable snowfall caused by climate change, an industry report says.

Winter holiday companies are considering withdrawing from Austrian resorts such as Kitzbühel and Zell am See rather than face compensation claims from skiers and snowboarders, the Good Skiing and Snowboarding Guide 2002 suggests. In all but the higher Alpine resorts, climate change has caused a reduction in snowfall over recent years and the start of the ski season has been pushed back by two weeks.

The problem has become so acute that only three or four resorts in Europe can be relied upon to provide snow before Christmas, the report said. Holiday companies will redraw the ski season calendar to take account of snowfall patterns across the Alps in recent years.

Fears for the future of the Alpine ski holiday were fuelled earlier this year when a United Nations report on climate change showed the Alps were warming faster than the rest of the globe. It forecast that the snowline in the main Swiss-French Alpine chain would rise and in Austria, where the snowline was lower, several resorts would be left as green fields.

Professor Martin Beniston, a co-author of the report for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicted that in Switzerland, resorts such as St Moritz, Klosters and Davos could lose their lower slopes. In an attempt to offset their losses on lower slopes, several resorts are developing or expanding on higher ground.

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said: "If there is any remarkable change in the snow conditions the travel companies will turn in the first instance to snow machines to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum."

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