Skiing industry's golden era may be over due to climate change

If you're a keen skier or snowboarder, the era of reliable beautiful snow has already passed, according to a new international study.

Research shows the US ski industry has lost more than $5 billion over the past two decades but industry heads here remain optimistic.

The empty pole rods of the ski lift at Dent-de-Vaulion sway in the wind, towering over the rocky landscape where only a few patches of crusty snow dot stretches of yellowed grass.

Switzerland, a global ski destination, is warming at about twice the global average rate due in part to the heat-trapping effect of its mountains, according to a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Ski resorts across the alpine country have been forced to shut down due to climate change.

"There are already stations that have given up skiing in low-mountain areas. And it's true that for these regions, the impact is obvious," said MeteoSwiss meteorologist Christophe Salamin.

Switzerland is one of a number of European countries facing this climate change problem.

A ski rental store owner in a French resort town is worried.

"If we keep having seasons like this one, we'll have to stop. We won't be able to go on. We'll need to think of something else," Josiane Sempe said.

New research says snow's glory days are over. The US ski industry has lost more than $5 billion over the past two decades due to human-caused global heating.

NZ Ski's Paul Anderson said they're seeing distinct weather changes over time here.

"I think wind is one of the things not often talked about with climate change. The infrastructure we're planning now, the wind speeds we're designing for is massive," he said.

The ski seasons abroad are getting shorter due to more rain than snow. Last year was the hottest ever recorded globally.

But New Zealand's larger fields have been getting around the issue by spending up large on snow machines.

"There's no doubt investment is significant - on our mountains we'd have anywhere between $10 and $15 million on Mt Hutt, Coronet Peak and Remarkables invested in snowmaking," Anderson said.

For those that can afford it, it's worth it. Over the past five years, the big commercial fields with full snowmaking facilities are open for an average of up to 120 days a season.

The smaller commercial fields with limited snowmaking ability are open around 60 to 70 days per season.

And for the small club fields with none - an average of only 50 to 60 days per season.

Tricky times for the smaller fields and now with the future of Ruapehu and Tūroa still uncertain. But despite the climate crisis, Anderson remains optimistic.

"We're still planning big investments down here, particularly at Remarkables - so that gives you an indication of our confidence in this climate to maintain ski operations in NZ, in the Southern Lakes anyway."

Continuing to cool the mountains down, while the globe continues to heat up.