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"Winter sports are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable".

New study presented for the first time at the members' meeting of the Wintersport Arena. 

Criticism of winter sports has become louder and louder in recent years. The Wintersport Arena Sauerland wants to counter this with an objective and fact-based view. A new, comprehensive study on winter sports in the region underpins sustainability. It was presented at the general meeting. 

Considering interrelationships and interdependencies 

What is new is the comprehensive examination of economic, ecological and social foundations and interrelationships, their interdependencies and their effects. What is high, what is low energy consumption? What is justifiable and what is "too much"? What share do ski resorts really have in climate change? What are the effects of alternative leisure activities? What would be the consequences of doing without winter sports? To be able to assess all this, comparisons have to be made, impacts and effects have to be taken into account. "We want to avoid isolated considerations, as these lead to misjudgements," emphasises author Christoph Schrahe. 


Economically highly efficient and ecologically valuable 

Critical points are also included in the analysis, but not only these. Instead, the 150-page study highlights how much the region benefits from winter tourism. Economic effects are examined, and influences on the quality of life and location factors are presented. The use of water is raised to a factual, correct level and it is shown that winter sports do not harm flora and fauna. By using the land in winter, it is possible to manage it extensively in summer and to preserve biodiversity. 

As far as energy use in relation to value creation is concerned, winter sports are even particularly efficient compared to the economy as a whole, according to the study, and use a higher percentage of green electricity. 

No recycling, no long supply chains 

The approach of so-called externalised costs is also exciting and new. Here, winter sports presents itself more positively than almost any other industry. There are no long supply chains, the product snow is used locally, and it disposes of itself without residues and at the front. The study proves this and much more on the basis of extensive facts.


A look into the future shows great opportunities 

It is particularly important for those responsible to show what prospects winter sports have. The study determines that it can be around for many years to come. Climate change has a greater impact in summer than in winter. In addition, technical development is progressing. Although the amount of natural snow has become less in recent years, this is more than compensated for by conventional snowmaking. 

The added value in the entire region has doubled since the emergence of the Sauerland winter sports arena, and in the largest ski areas even the number of operating days. The snow-making facilities have become significantly more efficient. This means that a "snow cannon" produces twice as much snow with the same energy input as 20 years ago. Snow lances even produce three times as much as the models of 15 years ago. At the same time, technical development is still in full swing. 

The study concludes: In contrast to the past, the Sauerland will have a favourable climate in winter as well as in summer in the future: In winter it offers the increasingly rare experience of snow, in summer a refuge from heat extremes.


The path to a climate-neutral future 

Since 2019, it has been the declared goal of the Wintersport Arena Sauerland to become climate neutral. The possibilities for getting closer to this goal are shown with many examples and suggestions. These go far beyond possible measures to save energy or the well-known use of wind and solar energy. One approach, for example, is to generate heat from the snowmaking process. In cooperation with the municipalities, this could become part of the municipal energy supply concepts called for in the energy transition. According to the study, ski resorts even have a good chance of becoming the engine of the energy transition in the region. 

Climate change is on everyone's lips; not a day goes by without people being made aware of the issue, the consequences, demands, political framework conditions and calls for action from several sides. Because of this and other crisis topics, people are slowly becoming "climate tired", surveys show. The ski resorts want to set a good example and show how innovative concepts can be used to continue what has been successful for years and what people love and what is good for their health. 

And last but not least. With its more than 100-year tradition, winter sports represent a cultural asset in the region. The people in the Sauerland love their homeland and their tradition and identify with it. Among other things, this makes winter sports an important social factor.



- Around 2.6 million days of stay are accounted for by snow tourism, of which 1.54 million are overnight stays and 1.1 million are day trips in the entire region from Willigen and the HSK to Olpe and Siegerland-Wittgenstein. 

- Holidaymakers spend an average of 159 euros per day, day visitors 69 euros.

- Snow tourism generates a gross turnover of 326 million euros in the region. 

- The snow tourism gross value added amounts to 196 million euros.

- 3,400 full-time jobs (arithmetically) are provided exclusively by snow tourism. This amounts to 5,100 actual jobs.  

- If winter tourism were to be abandoned, the tourism businesses would have to reckon with a 50% loss in turnover. 

- For every lost skier day, the region would have to gain 3.3 hiking guests or 5.8 cycling tourists. Hiking and cycling generate lower turnover and are significantly less attractive to guests in winter than in summer. This means. Snow tourism is currently not equally substitutable in winter. 

- The existence of cable cars and ski lifts makes some summer offers such as bike park operation possible in the first place (Winterberg, Willingen, Gellinghausen, Fahlenscheid). 

- Winterberg and Willingen, which have made the highest investments in their winter sports infrastructure in the last 15-20 years, are the holiday resorts with the most overnight stays in the German low mountain ranges.



- The alpine ski slopes in Sauerland and Siegerland-Wittgenstein currently cover an area of 248.3 hectares. This corresponds to 0.047 percent of the total area. 

- 18.5 percent of the ski slope areas in Sauerland/Siegerland were converted into either FFH areas or nature reserves around the turn of the millennium. For the most part, these protected areas were designated in long-established ski areas. 

- Snow tourism uses a comparatively small amount (532,000 m³), obtained from surface water. It produces very little waste water, so the water is used, not consumed. 

- One ski guest day uses 650-850 l of water. This means a ticket turnover of 30.45 euros per m³. The production of one Maß of beer requires 300 litres of water and generates 2.93 euros in turnover per m³ consumed. The "production" of half a grilled chicken requires 2,000 litres of water and generates 2.60 euros of turnover per m³ consumed. Breweries and food production generate wastewater in the manufacturing process, while in winter sports the water passes unpolluted into the natural water cycle after the snow melts.



- The ski areas in the Wintersport Arena Sauerland had a total energy demand of about 11,275 MWh in winter 20/21. Snowmaking accounts for only 3.5 percent of Co2 emissions 

- The Sauerland ski areas used 87.6 per cent green electricity in winter operations. 

- The largest share of Co2 emissions in the ski area is accounted for by the snow groomers. By using HVO (biodiesel), this can be reduced by up to 90 percent. Tests have already been successfully run. As soon as enough HVO is available on the market, it will be used more - despite higher prices.

- A ski lift guest generates 32.65 kg of Co2 a day in winter, of which 1.1% is due to snowmaking and 84% to travel, catering and accommodation - which also occur in alternative forms of tourism. (Summer holiday day in Spain: 159 kg/day, long-distance travel by plane: 454 kg per holiday day). 

- The development initiated by the energy transition will significantly reduce the Co2 share in the future. It means that in 20 years' time travel will probably have hardly any negative impact on the climate.

- The value added per kW/h used in snow tourism is 2.15 euros (total economy 1.40 euros), the value added per tonne of Co2 emissions in snow tourism is 6.01 euros (total economy 4.59 euros). 


Ø Measured in terms of value added, snow tourism achieves these effects with a lower input of energy, water and land compared to the overall economy.