Ski property faces meltdown as global warming chills the market
There may be a global freeze on at the moment but Britons who own and let flats and chalets at ski resorts could face a threat to their investments — thanks to a long-term shortage of snow.
Recent weeks have seen huge snowfalls in the UK, on mainland Europe and across North America, but research by Unesco's environment programme suggests long-term global warming will push the snowline up worldwide in years to come.
European ski resorts range from very low-lying ones, such as Lillehammer in Norway which is just 180 metres above sea level, to a few approaching 4,000 metres at Chamonix in the French Alps. In North America resorts are generally higher, ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 metres, especially in the most mountainous areas like Colorado.
If scientists are correct, Austria might see the most spectacular change; its snowline will rise a startling 300 metres by 2050. Sooner than that, the French Snow Research Centre says a 1.8C rise in temperature will shorten France's snow cover above 1,500 metres from 170 days to 135. Switzerland's Association of Winter Sports Resorts says its annual season has been cut by 12 days, just since 1995.
There are no authoritative figures on the international ownership of ski homes but between 2004 and 2007, around 70% of all flats and chalets sold in one large resort in the French Alps were bought by Britons, and dozens of British estate agents market ski properties in Europe and North America. Now they — and the developers behind the resorts — are trying to avoid this lucrative market being consigned to history.
"Many ski towns have been trying to ensure that they're 'year round' to attract visitors in the summer as well as the winter," says Andrew Hawkins of Chesterton Humberts estate agency.