“Snow guaranteed? Absolutely not. Perspectives for winter tourism in the Alps” was the topic of an international conference organised by the community network Alliance in the Alps. Members of the network joined by other stakeholders met in Bad Hindelang, Germany, from 23 to 24 October. The conference was dedicated to developing strategies to cope with the impacts of climate change on winter tourism.
The theme chosen for the conference was as pressing as it was relevant: shorter and less predictable winter seasons in the Alps increasingly require adaptation measures for winter tourism destinations. The number of snow days is decreasing, and the snowfall line is rising due to climate change. However, since snow tourism is a key factor for the quality of life in many communities in the Alpine region, there is a need to establish long-term alternatives to cope with these changes.
“I really believe in the value of learning from each other and exchanging within our networks about possible futures of winter tourism in the face of these challenges," said Alenka Smerkolj, Secretary General of the Alpine Convention, in her welcome address. She emphasised the important role of the Alliance in the Alps network which consists of over 300 municipalities and is an Observer organisation to the Alpine Convention.
More than 120 conference participants were also welcomed by Marc Nitschke (Chair of Alliance in the Alps), Dr Sabine Rödel (Mayor of Bad Hindelang), Christian Ernstberger (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection), and Stefan Mitterer (Bavarian Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection).
As a small example of a local project, Marc Nitschke arrived at the conference in the “EMMI-Mobil”. The small on-demand electric bus is a good practice example for covering the last kilometre for inhabitants and guests alike.
Alliance in the Alps organised the conference in connection to the Interreg Alpine Space project “Beyond Snow”. The aim of the project is to help winter tourism destinations become less dependent on snow, thus increasing their resilience to climate change.
To find creative solutions in sustainability and resilience, participants looked at the current status and held a lively exchange on how a positive future including the necessary changes – beyond reliable snow – could look.
Alternative offers for tourists, good Alpine food, and transportation solutions including bicycles and urban cable cars were among the ideas discussed.
Furthermore, various existing tourism alternatives to skiing were explored, including other outdoor activities as well as cultural offerings, for example in the German Achental and in Bad Hindelang. Here, tourists can learn about herbs, cheese, and how to make good Kässpatzen (cheese noodles) or they can try to play the alphorn on winter days with little snow.
Excursions to the Hintersteiner valley, the Alpine village of Balderschwang or in the EMMI-Mobil to an organic Alpine pasture allowed participants to explore examples of alternatives being implemented on the ground.