Will the Aletsch Glacier disappear?

post by : florenti.daenzer

Aletsch Glacier


The Aletsch glacier was formed during the last ice age (around 18’000 years ago) and is the bigger glacier from the Alps. It is melting due to global warming but if the global warming can be limited to less than 2° the glacier will probably be shrunk to its half before 2100. Otherwise it will completely disappear before the end of the century.

Since the Aletsch glacier was the biggest European glacier and it has a unique landscape, it is protected and defined as an UNESCO world heritage. As Monika König, manager of communication of Aletsch Arena Tourism Office, explained: “The glacier is highly protected by guards in order that there is no damage due to tourism. Additionally, there is no mass tourism, we mostly have German or Swiss visitors which are very responsible.”



Comparison Iceland – Switzerland


In Iceland since 1995, the glaciers lost around 7% of their mass because of climate change and one of the most important reason for tourists to come to Iceland is to see the glaciers and do some winter activities (such as climbing, hiking, cave tours and snowmobile adventure). If they would not exist anymore, the possible activities would not be done anymore.

On the 18th of August 2019, a mourning ceremony was held to say goodbye for the Okjökull glacier (Iceland) where there is only 1 square meter remaining. Tourists said they felt more concerned about climate change after visiting Iceland where they can see the effects of it.


On the 22nd of September 2019 a similar ceremony was done for the Pizol glacier (small glacier in the Glarus Alps of northern Switzerland) who also disappeared due to climate change. Some new projects in the region and in Switzerland were created; Suspension bridges (Trift Bridge in Bernese Oberland), via ferrata, educational nature trails are constructed and new landscape because of lakes forming which “add value to the landscape”.



The Impact of on Glaciers’ Melting on Tourism


Every year, it at­tracts thou­sands of vis­it­ors from around the world: as the largest ice flow in the Alps, the Great Aletsch Gla­cier is a ma­jor tour­ism draw in the Swiss re­gion of Up­per Val­ais.

The retreat of glaciers also has a major impact on residents:

The glacier attraction is an important source of income. Through snow deficient winters locals have financial problems because they heavily depend on snow availability and the weather and their villages are threatened by the natural hazards.

Since the melting of the glaciers results in mud flows, rock falls, soil slides, erosions and in other threats, the economy has to invest a lot of money to stabilize the soil, to produce artificial snow , to finance important measurements and researches to analyse the dangers of the glaciers for  glacier tours or skiing on the glacier and to analyse the risks for tourists and locals and finally to reconstruct hiking trails in order to fulfil the demands of the tourists.

The melting glaciers have an impact on both summer and winter tourism:



  • Declining profitability especially of the lower-lying winter sports areas, due to
  • decreasing duration of snow cover, shortening the ski season
  • increasing costs for making snow for slopes
  • declining number of guests at mountain railways and tourist accommodation due to uncertain snow conditions
  • declining motivation for winter sports when the Swiss Plateau lacks a winter landscape


  • Increasing damage to tourist buildings, facilities and paths due to rock fall, rock avalanche, debris flows, landslides, floods and forest fires; increasing expenses for maintenance in recreational areas
  • Additional economic damage if the accessibility of a tourist destination is temporarily restricted due to a natural event
  • Increased negative perception of the mountain area as a recreation area / tourism destination after natural events with personal or major property damage

Summarized Climate Change has impacts on agriculture and on tourism industry like cable cars, sports activities which depend on the glacier and weather conditions.


Can Glaciers be saved?


Rhone Glacier has been covered in white sheets to protect it against the sun for 10 years. but “…the costs will soon exceed the economics benefits”, says Huss, a well-known researcher of glaciology. “The Aletsch glacier is too big to be saved with sheets or artificial snow machines, our methods are to make the people as well as the tourists aware of the climate change and its impacts on the glacier “, explained Monika König, the manager of the Aletsch Arena tourist office.


There was an Initiative to save the glaciers in 2019 by the Swiss Association for Climate Protection, the people’s initiative “for a healthy climate” contains the reduction of net emissions in Switzerland to zero by 2050 and is one of the objectives of the Paris climate agreement. Re­gard­ing gla­cier tour­ism in Val­ais, the best-​case scen­ario would be if global warm­ing could be lim­ited to less than 2 de­grees Celsius, as told in the Paris Agree­ment. If the Paris Agreement succeeds, the climate would stabilize by the middle of the century. This would save 40% of the Aletsch glacier’s volume by 2100.



Our Suggestions to the Aletsch Glacier


  • Instead of outdoor skiing, it could be introduced skiing halls which do not depend on snow conditions nor on the glacier.
  • Since some glaciers are too large to cover them or putting artificial snow on them, it would be good to make the people aware of the climate change and its impacts as Monika König suggested. The Aletsch arena already has trails on which explanations, demonstrations and suggestions of the climate change are shown.
  • A future thinking on questions like what alternatives to the glacier attraction and winter sports are, would be good in case the glacier disappears. Unfortunately, the Aletsch Arena does not have an alternative. In their opinion it is too far away.



Climate change and adaptation strategies for winter tourism

post by : fanny.montavon

Climate change and adaptation strategies for winter tourism

Fanny Montavon, Robin Wenger HES SO Valais – Tourism – Class 701_e – 2018

The major impacts of the global warming over the last century:

The global surface temperature has increased between 1.1 and 1.6°F, Ice is melting especially the earth’s pole and mountain glaciers, many species have been impacted, the sea water has risen by 3°F and finally there has been a shift of precipitation pattern and a rise of sea level.

The effects that could take place in the near future:

A rise of sea level between 18-59 cm by the end of this century predicted by scientists, some natural disasters are likely to become more common, health of people (especially elderly) by the fact of heat waves and the Arctic ocean which is expected to become essentially ice-free.

Consequences on ski industry:

Less snow, glaciers are melting (detrimental for skiing in summer), more extreme conditions due to a dysregulation of the earth and the fact of permafrost (risk of landslides).

Adaptation strategies have to be taken into account in order to maintain winter tourism and make the ski industry survive. A few ideas are presented according to the following mind-map. Although this model was established a few years ago (2003), most of the points mentioned are still relevant nowadays. It has become clear that it is our role to develop strategies that are sustainable for the future and focused on the environment as the main reason of these climate changes are caused by us humans. These changes can ben seen positively as it represents a new challenge for winter tourism.

If we take into consideration the strategy of artificial snow-making, the main way for the ski industry to survive. However, this artificial resource is limited not only because of the quantity of water which needs to be provided, but also because the process in itself needs certain temperature and meteorological conditions (wet bulb humidity, temperature and wind). This strategy remains important as it is still to make snow in ambient air or just above the freezing temperature of water.

Development of higher terrains means obviously that as the temperature continue to rise in the future, we have to go higher to find fresher temperatures. Thus, the small resorts of low altitude are threatened and have to develop their all-year round tourism supply by diversifying tourism products (snowshoeing, pedestrian ways, thermal baths, spa) and being less dependent on snow.

Cooperation is also a really important topic. In order to survive, it is important to flesh out those means at different scales: the different actors within the resorts such as hotels, restaurants, activities suppliers and infrastructure, to a larger scale: resorts cooperating on different aspect to reduce the bad impacts of competitiveness.
Hotel can for example provide packages with the tourism activity providers, others offers can be elaborated in order to benefit different tourism actors (even the smaller ones) by offering packages. The alliance of different ski areas by providing special packs and other kinds of tickets is also a good way to enhance co-operations, an example of this would be the Magic Pass.

In order to put in place all of these measures in place, it is important to receive funds. Some resorts may have the chance to receive funds from private investors, but most of them are supported by the federal state.  

Other interesting means taken by the ski resorts to achieve sustainability such as public transports (Jura Pass, etc). Finally, it is important to raise awareness of user of the ski resorts, by taking measures to show them that the mountain is scarce and that it is important to have respect towards. Skiers have to be aware that the actual ski conditions will probably not last as we tend to have less snow.

Sources mentionned on the PowerPoint.



How to renew the Mountain Offer?

post by : nicole.reber

We all know for a fact that the climate change is a main concern nowadays. Unfortunately, the whole world suffers from it but the mountain regions are mainly touched by this phenomenon. If there is no snow, it is difficult to attract tourists because this is the main attraction in Switzerland. Therefore, people working in that domain need to innovate and find new ideas that could appeal to tourists.


Firstly, there are activities like the trail running that can be practiced as much in winter than in summer. In the Valais region, competitions and races like the “Verbier St-Bernard” or the “Ultra-Trail” of the Mont-Blanc exist.

Secondly, cycling is a very important activity in our region thanks to the perfect scenery for practicing it. It is therefore a product that is put forward in Valais. Furthermore, thanks to the equipment we have for the bicycles, it is also feasible to practice this sport in winter.

Thirdly, a very old and known activity is being developed and modernized; hiking. It is being changed by creating “wellness hiking” or “afghan hiking”. The first one is a very nice barefoot walk which is composed of fourteen “stops” that make you discover shiatsu relaxing techniques. You can auto-massage your body by putting pressure on some precise energy spots. The second hiking type is a method that lets you combine your respiratory rhythm and your pace.


To conclude, these activities are slowly becoming more and more important for the ski stations because snow is becoming less and less frequent. Developing basic activities, we all know into new experiences and products is a ver good opportunity for ski resorts.