Skiing and Vegetation
Pp. 65-78 (14)
Impacts of skiing on alpine and subalpine vegetation are expressed by
multiple disturbances: snow is being compacted by skiers and heavy machinery, new
ski pistes are constructed by means of machine-grading and, increasingly, artificial
snow is being produced by snow-making facilities.
This review compiles studies on ski piste vegetation from more than three centuries and
skiing destinations across the world and distinguishes between different types of
disturbances and elevations. Skiing in general can exert disturbances in the vegetation
because of the changed snow conditions. The compaction of the snow can induce hard soil
frost and mechanically damage plants. Machine-grading in summer to create smooth
surfaces represents the most drastic disturbance on ski pistes especially at elevations around
and above treeline. Artificial snow production has the potential to change vegetation
through an input of water and ions and through postponing the time of melt-out.
Restoration measures to re-establish local vegetation after machine-grading have improved
considerably in the last decades, however, still the vegetation and soil rarely fully recovers
after major disturbance. If constructions are unavoidable, it is vitally important that
restoration measures follow restoration guidelines that represent today’s state of the art.
Alpine vegetation, artificial snow, machine-grading, restoration, skipiste
construction, snow, snow-making.
WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Flüelastrasse 11, 7260 Davos Dorf, Switzerland