Catalonia will only create artificial snow for public ski slopes in 'exceptional cases' due to drought

Government tighted water restrictions this week, which sees limits on agricultural, industrial, recreational, and personal use

The water catchment pool to create artificial snow at Port Ainé
The water catchment pool to create artificial snow at Port Ainé / Oriol Bosch
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 2, 2023 10:17 AM

March 2, 2023 11:27 AM

As a consequence of the ongoing drought situation across Catalonia, the government has decided to stop producing artificial snow for ski slopes, save for "specific and exceptional cases."

One such exception will be the Para Snow World Cup held from March 8 to 17 at the La Molina resort.

This is what sources from Ferrocarrils (FGC), the public company that manages the train stations and public ski slopes, have explained to the Catalan News Agency.

Earlier this week, the government decreed the state of exceptionality due to drought in many parts of the territory, the fourth stage out of a total of five in the emergency plans to cope with drought.

This stage sees tighter limits put on agricultural, industrial, recreational, and personal use of water. However, personal use is capped at 230l per person per day, and the climate minister added during the announcement that average daily personal use is only around 117l.    

FGC say that it has not snowed for weeks in many parts of the Pyrenees, which will put some slopes at risk.

Yet, the company pointed out that the exceptional drought measures do not prohibit them from creating artificial snow, nor does it oblige them to do anything in this regard. Despite this, FGC has "verbalized" the decision to stop producing artificial snow after the executive appealed for "responsibility."

"We are not the ones that use more water," they said, adding that if they stop the production, the rest of restrictions will continue unchanged.

In any case, government sources believe there will be no need to generate more snow before the end of the ski season, scheduled for April 10, Easter Monday.

Skiing in the Catalan Pyrenees - a sustainability conundrum

The debate surrounding artificial snow has been going on for a long time, but especially this season, given the ongoing drought.

Talking to Catalan News, the head of the commercial department at the La Molina ski resort, Marta Viver, did not recently hide the fact that 600 snow cannons feed the ski runs, but she explained that it is made from their own water from a closed cycle.

"In the spring, we store all the water from melted snow and rain, and then in the winter, we return all this water to the runs as artificial snow," she said. "What's more, snow cannons are more and more modern now thanks to technology, and therefore they consume less energy."

However, these arguments do not persuade the grassroots platform Stop JJOO, one of the most outspoken voices against an economy based on tourism and ski in the Catalan Pyrenees. Also talking to this media outlet, a member of this group, Marcel Sangenís, said that some villages in his municipality "suffered drought-related water restrictions. What's the point in ski resorts never facing these measures?".

"Supposedly the rainwater that falls in their premises is theirs, but some studies suggest over 40% of water evaporation."

Have a listen to our recent podcast about the debate revolving around skiing in the Catalan Pyrenees.