Better predictions for snow management in ski resorts, through modelling.
Try PROSNOW yourself
Facing accelerated climate change, Alpine stakeholders must find sustainable ways to maintain tourism. PROSNOW helps ski resorts anticipate snow conditions, adapt management, and reduce water and energy use.
Snow on the ground is a vital resource for mountain regions: it sustains river flow, provides freshwater input to ecosystems and supports winter tourism in ski resorts. The level of activity, employment, turnover and profit of hundreds of ski resorts in the European Alps primarily depends on meteorological conditions- specifically natural snowfall, but also conditions favourable for technical snowmaking (production of artificial snow).
Since the seventies, ski resort managers have massively improved their snow management practices, initially with the objective of mitigating the impact of the large inter-annual variability of snow conditions, and more recently as an adaptation measure to the effects of climate change. Therefore, ski resorts strongly depend on appropriate conditions for technical snowmaking (mainly the availability of cold water, as well as sub-freezing temperature with sufficiently low humidity conditions).
By means of modern slope preparation and maintenance, snow stock management and technical snow making, a typical resort can approximately maintain the same season duration with 30% less snow. The ski industry increasingly uses advanced technological means for monitoring snow conditions and grooming operations and could strongly benefit from anticipation tools to assist the decision-making process.
Beyond the time scale of weather forecasts, ski resort managers must rely on various and scattered sources of information, hampering their ability to cope with highly variable meteorological conditions.
The PROSNOW project’s objective was the creation of a demonstrator for meteorological and climate predictions and snow management system from one week to several months ahead, specifically tailored to the needs of the ski industry.
The system integrates weather forecasts and climate predictions at the seasonal scale, snowpack modelling, and local observations for snow height.
The project includes an assessment of the demonstrator’s added value for the ski industry, but also for additional stakeholders including local and regional tourism authorities, hydropower managers, and natural hazard forecasters and planners. Here's a short video about PROSNOW.
Developing a tailored prediction system
The demonstrator was built upon a co-design approach. The general structure of the interface was defined based on information coming from different actors, mainly the snow scientists working on the set up of models and the final users from the pilot ski resorts (through Local Working Groups, especially during the winter period 2019/20).
Pilot ski resorts’ expectations in terms of features were collected and underwent a feasibility check in terms of possible model outputs (variables, configurations, timelines).
The demonstrator is structured around an interactive ski resort map which displays colored indicators on ski slopes divided into specific sub-sectors. The objective of the interface is to be intuitive and easily readable.
As the structural development of the Demonstrator was completed at the beginning of the 2019-2020 winter season, it is now considered a functional and qualified user-facing tool.
This project contributes to “building Europe's capacity to respond to and improve resilience to climate change by strengthening significantly the nascent global market for demand-driven climate services”.
PROSNOW has the potential for a significant impact on the ski industry, with trickle-down effects on the broader tourism sector. The project has helped increase the climate knowledge and capacity of ski and tourism professionals, by developing a new snowpack and ski slope management tool.
Following positive feedback from its first season of use by pilot ski resorts, post-project commercial exploitation of the PROSNOW demonstrator is currently under discussion. The service could be commercially available in several European countries as early as winter 2020-2021.
Partnership and award
This research project was co-coordinated by Météo-France, the French Meteorological Agency, and Ramboll. The consortium also includes partners in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Partners include weather and meteorological predictions providers, research institutions specializing in snowpack modelling, a relevant ensemble of 9 representative resorts in the Alps, technical bodies representing ski resorts managers, and a group of private providers proposing high tech services for snow management.
Thanks to the consortium’s outstanding work, PROSNOW won the Jury’s Special Prize at the Digital Mountain Awards 2018, presented at the Mountain Planet fair. These prizes reward initiatives and investments dedicated to digital innovation in service of the tourism strategy of ski resorts and mountain territories.
More about the project: PROSNOW website