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Ski pistes put alpine vegetation at risk

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
... according to research published today in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology.
Quote:
Sonja Wipf of the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF and colleagues from the University of Zurich and the University of Potsdam in Germany examined plant species at 12 Swiss ski resorts. They found that, compared with off-piste plots, there were 11% fewer plant species on ski pistes, with woody plants and early-flowering species being most badly affected.

Machine grading of ski slopes caused most damage to vegetation, with machine-graded slopes having five times more bare ground than ungraded pistes. And, say the researchers, this damage is long lasting. They found pistes that had been machine graded as long as 30 years ago and re-sown with plant seed had still not recovered. "Machine grading constitutes the most drastic vegetation disturbance on ski pistes. It should be avoided wherever possible, as it causes lasting damage that cannot be overcome by revegetation measures, particularly at higher altitudes," they say.
More here
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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Not surprising. That's why it's important to respect the nature reserve areas that are closed to skiers. But you have to weigh up the damage caused by tourism / skiing with the benefits brought to the area. Same as every other part of this planet we are destroying!
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I don't think you have to ban skiers from an area, just make it less appealing to mass touristm. It's enough if you have to walk up a few hundred metres, not have a bar or car park close by, keep the machines away, etc. A few lone skiers won't do much damage.
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I saw the same thing last year when I climbed the hill behind LaRos’ to see the new lifts. The Tetras blue down to the village had been graded many yeas ago and it was very obvious that its vegetation cover was both fragile and sparse in comparison to the rest of the mountain. Ok it’s a slate/shale hill so it has a fairly poor vegetation cover even by Alp standards but it was quite obvious that the piste will never recover anything like the variety around it.
And then I saw the new extended runs above it. My first feelings are ‘wow’ about time, it’ll be great. But thinking now about it, I realise that it’ll take generations for enough windblown dust accumulation just to support the local mosses and grass.
I also remember the fun we used to have riding down the little forestry trails on the Motolino side of Livigno and now they’re being cut off and lost to wide swathes of cleared piste.
Maybe it’s time to go back to skiing the natural contours, but with reduced snow accumulations that’ll just make it more dangerous.
The whole thing’s a mess of conflicting interests including ours to ski when and where we want. Sad
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The problem is that so many of us expect beautifully groomed, corduroy-surfaced, mogul-free blues and reds. Which you simply can't have without piste bashing. Is this problem worse in Switzerland and parts of Austria where, because the alpine meadows are so smooth, the bashers go to work when the snow depths are much less than in rockier, rougher areas of, say, France, where they need to wait for a much deeper snowpack to build before they even attempt to piste it?
In Iran I have driven over tracks through the main resort of Dizin and there is absolutely no sign of vegetation damage in summer on the slopes. The queueing and milling around areas at the bottom do get muddy late season and the grasses have no time to regrow before the next season. But the average snowfall is 7m at the top of the resort so what little vegetation there is at altitude is well protected. And the amount of bashing is probably less than in European resorts.

If you ski off piste, certainly you remove the piste basher effect locally but there is no doubt you will often damage the tops of young trees and shrubs pushing up through the snow. Our sports do have significant environmental impacts however we choose to get to the hills and whichever way we practice them.

Interesting points in the article PG linked about the impact of artificial snow making on vegetation. Changing the mix of flower varieties.
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STOP THE BRUTAL GROOMING Very Happy
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Well said, stanton,
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I think that in the article, they're not so much referring to piste bashing, more to the original earthworks when the piste is formed. Or that's the impression that I get anyway.
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Kramer, Had another read and I don't think so. Granted graders are earthmoving machines but in this context I think they mean groomers. The 1st sentence states
Quote:
Major changes need to be made to the way ski pistes are managed if delicate alpine plants are to be protected, ecologists have warned.
Note the word managed. It is not the original creation of the piste being discussed (though no doubt any earthworks at that time will be seriously damaging and long lasting) but the ongoing treatment of pisted areas both by grooming (which it calls 'machine grading') and artifical snow creation which is the focus of the article. It's the deep digging cross-wise track blades used to obtain traction for the pistebully that can do so much damage on shallowly snow-covered ground.
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I'm not so convinced, having walked over the same Wengen pistes in Summer that I've skied over in winter I can see very little difference between the piste and the surrounding fields, indeed several of the areas that are pisted in winter have brilliant displays of high alpine flora and some fauna in summer, however this may not be the same in all resorts, I have heard tell that in resorts that use adatives in their snowmaking there has been a reduction in local flora but I don't know if this is down to snowmaking adatives or some other cause
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kuwait_ian, you may be right. It's a little ambiguous (?sic).
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Bear in mind that the cround pressure exerted by a piste basher is probably lower than a skier, certainly lower than a walker, however if the tracks break through the snow into the underlying soil it will do damage
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quote] They found pistes that had been machine graded as long as 30 years ago and re-sown with plant seed had still not recovered. "Machine grading constitutes the most drastic vegetation disturbance on ski pistes. [/quote]


This would imply the original creation of the piste removing undesirable bumps etc, Its hard to believe they found and area of mechanically groomed piste 30 years ago and then stopped grooming it.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I would think the major damage is from grading - ie scraping the top layers of vegetation/earth to create smooth bases to become pistes. If the article was referring to grooming, then where would there be "ungroomed" pistes? Even pistes which are left "non damée" for periods of time, for moguls to develop, are groomed from time to time. Even in our little resort of Les Saisies we were very sorry to see the damage being done last summer to widen a narrow piste based on a forest road, and in another place to create a smooth run out so that a narrow bit of mogully off piste (that I never did) could be made an official black piste. That wasn't progress - the people that did it were skilled enough to cope with the gullied and rocky runout, and it kept others off. From observation, areas of alpage which are under pistes in winter have loads of flowers, but it would take a scientific survey to identify whether there is any less bio-diversity in those areas. I suppose it is important that pistes are closed promptly when the snow cover is thin, because those groomers must damage the ground then. But just from the aesthetic point of view, mountains covered in ski hardware are not as attractive as those without - so I support the ecolos who oppose the Megeve/Notre Dame link - there's not much left without pylons, around there. As others have observed, snowsports are environmentally pretty unfriendly, but in overall terms the aircraft which bring us all here are probably worse for the planet than the piste groomers, or even the graders.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:
snowsports are environmentally pretty unfriendly

I suppose it depends just how far back you stand. You could say that the human race per se is "ecologically unfriendly". But then again, take a few more steps backwards, and in the grand scheme of things, it's all pretty irrelevant really wink
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I suspect it's rather like shooting and conservation, farmers have for years been persuaded to put in extra trees ponds and hedges to help wildlife because its helpful for those people who shoot Shocked Mountains will be managed by people because people want to ski on them, the problems occur when either the enviromentalists go crazy and try to ban everything, or the developers go crazy and want to poor concrete everywhere, if things are done in moderation everyone will stay fairly happy
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PG,

Along those lines the current temperature change asa result of 'global warming' is miniscule when compared with climate change that took place in between the ice age. Over time (100s of millions of years) the earth has been able to regulate its own climate. At least that's what I remember from A level geography.
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D G Orf, let's make a big artificial concrete mountain. With a chamois sanctuary.
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Kramer, ok but can we put it somewhere that it might improve the neighborhood ? On top of Slough or possibly Basingstoke might be good choices Laughing
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Wimbledon? Twisted Evil
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Kramer, Shocked Ouch snowHead snowHead snowHead
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The BBC's views on the same study:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4449637.stm
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You really can't win with this one. Here we only have 3 ways down the mountain: Long green path that's closed early in the season (no cannons allowed by landowners); black runs down the face; the lifts. How many times a season do I hear "but why don't you just make a blue run down?" er.... where??? Well now they're planning to do just that (at the Diable end), and what do the tourists say about it "Oh but I don't agree with ruining the mountain, they shouldn't be allowed to take earthmovers to it".

Well I never! rolling eyes rolling eyes rolling eyes
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easiski,from my memories of the Diable end;the only way they could do that is to cut a winding road into the mountain side?Is this being done just so a 'return by ski's' can be claimed.

Must admit I quite liked being separated from the mountain.To generally improve a resorts system is one thing.To hack wholesale into the mountain is quite another Shocked
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Who needs Pistes anyway ?

Pistes encourage skiers into a false sense of there actual ability.

Pistes encourage dangerous and wreckless skiing.

Lets get back to natural skiing !

No Lifts & Stop the Brutal Grooming Very Happy

IMHO this will discourage the masses Very Happy
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The BBC article makes it clear it is the original grading (i.e. earthworks) for piste creation they are concerned about. Not piste bashing. Thanks PG
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There are parallels here with Salisbury plain. The downside of the Tank training area is that the Tank's and their caterpillar tracks cause undisputed ecological damage, however the areas that are in the 'Danger Zone' (ie it is unsafe to go into that area) are rich with fauna wildlife and many rare species simply because the effect of humanity is not present,. One could argue that the two activitys balance each other out, and therefore the effect net effect is nil. Puzzled
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