Critically evaluate the impact of skiing on mountain environments. What role can tourism play in sustaining mountain communities?
Only 75 years ago, skiing was an elite sport practiced by a few hard souls in about 6 mountain resorts in the European Alps. Hotels had just begun to stay open to extend the resorts season. They used to be built mainly for summer vacations, attracting wealthy clients that could afford to travel. In the 1920s the European alpine nations began to build ski lifts, which increased popularity of skiing to new heights. Simultaneously with innovation and the development of new equipment and techniques, skiing attracted more followers and became part of the Olympic games in 1925. Today “forty million skiers can journey to any three hundred major alpine ski resorts around the major mountain chains of forty countries” (Net: 1).
Looking at the European Alps one can see the explosion of skiing tourism. I chose the Alps as main example of my piece of work simply for the reasons, that they are the place where skiing developed and boomed the most and they are also my place of birth and I think I can relate to some of the impacts tourism has. Also no other mountain area is hit that hard by the tourism industry in winter as well as in summer, having about 120 million visitors and covering about one quarter of the World tourism (Source: 1).
Skiing has got major effects especially on the environment of the Alps, but has brought wealth and a consistent income to mountain communities. I will sum up the impacts on environment and the effects on locals, skiing and its tourism has brought.
The impacts of skiing and its tourism are not only environmental but also economical and cultural.
One of the major environmental problems of most tourism areas is the huge numbers of cars the tourists arrive in. These do not only pollute air and drinking water but also produce a lot of noise locals have to cope with. A survey was made in Schönberg, where drinking water no more meets regulations and grown vegetables could be damaging for children because of their high content of lead. About 48% of the population feel inhibited by the noise of the local Autobahn where not only trolleys, but also thousands of tourists make their way in and out of the Alps (Source: 6, page 80). 25% of Switzerland’s trees are damaged by the high percentage of pollutants (Source: 5).