Glaciation- skiing industry avalanches-climate change glacier mass balance water supply

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Topic 1- The skiing industry and avalanches

·         Globally mountain ski resorts attract over 300 million skiers each year

·         41% Alps, America 21% and Asia& pacific 14%

·         Distribution of ski resorts- 36% in Alps, 22% in America, 18% Asia& pacific

Austria- A country dependent on Mountain tourism- tourism is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and the fastest growing sector

·         22,000 people employed in 40,000  tourist establishments

·         Tourism generate 10% of Austria’s economic output in 2007

·         Tourism is Austria’s biggest foreign exchange earner and the fastest growing sector

·         The economic importance of Skiing/tourism; making use of unproductive farmland, provides jobs for local people, accommodation, skiing infrastructure-boost local economy, allows them to import crops/food as they are unable to grow their own, disposable income, taxation, transport, infrastructure (Galtur- Austrian Alps)

Avalanche- a sudden downhill movement of snow/ice or rock. The material moves under influence of gravity. Speed of 2-300 KM p/h. Exerts weight onto earlier snowfalls.  Slope angle, weather, vibrations from skiers, wind allows accumulation, steep slopes over 25`C.

·         Loose snow avalanches- inverted v shape, start from single point and builds up as it moves down

·         Slab avalanches- weight of skiers breaks a whole slab, breaks away from crown on a layer of weakness

Case study- The Galtur Avalanche 1999

·         Double snow than usual from December- April

·         20th January 1999- 3 severe snow storms, 5metres deep snow, winds 120 km/hr, snow piled up in mountains

·         Wall of snow (5metres high) smashed through centre of Galtur 23rd Febuary 1999, snow buried houses, destroyed cars, heavy snow over night- 50cm snow expected by morning

·         Speed of avalanche 200 km/hr

·         30 people killed, 2500 tourists helicoptered out of town, roads opened after a week, most people died of suffocation from snow

·         Help was received 3 days late, reduced visibility and blocked routes from further avalanches

·         Ideas introduced for prevention of avalanches

·         Avalanche protection project- walls in 1999 to stop snow mass, new buildings stronger structure, steel barriers/ afforestation to break snow down, tunnels to protect roads from blocking, a new building which can withstand avalanche twice the power of 1999- the building is a museum about Galtur

·         4 years after 1999 visitors increased to normal

Risk of future avalanches are being reduced in Galtur-

·         Majority deaths occur amongst recreational skiers, snow boarders- restricting these activities at times of high risk is a priority

·         Trigger small avalanches under controlled conditions before snow peak builds to a dangerous state- commonly used in Whistler, British Columbia daily

·         Controlling avalanche activity- stabilising the snow peak in the starting zone

·         Afforestation, snow fences, barriers, deflect avalanches/ slow rate of movement reducing destructive force

·         Deaths increased over time because people have more disposable income more people likely to visit, geographical mobility is easier,


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