As you probably have guessed, this weekend I’ve been skiing in the Pirinees, in Andorra. The ski station, called Grandvalira, has an skiable domain of 193 km in 110 tracks and is the biggest in the Iberian peninsula.
That’s how it looks like in Google Maps:
And this is how it looks like from within:
Needles to say, I had a lot of fun. It’s my favourite station and I think I’ve skied (almost) all of it. The weekend was non-stop skiing, eating, going to a spa, reading and laughing.
But there’s also an scarcity reflection about all of this. It doesn’t snow as it used to be. The global warming has arrived.
Higher and higher investments are necessary to keep stations running. Artificially created snow is the only way to grant a smooth season where it used to be snowy not so long ago. That means increased tension on natural resources as water to make snow becomes more scarce, and higher energy expenditures. The balance is unsustainable on the long run.
And additional tensions arise because of the opportunity costs of those owners of land beside the station. On the French side (upper right) there’s an enlargement going on. It’s called Porte de Neige and will increase the skiable domain with 50 additional km, along with a new complex for tourists with several hotels, shops and all the necessary infrastructures.
It would simply be growth if it wasn’t in a previously unspoiled and wild place. Of course ecologists complained, but with no results. And the necessary question arises: should we be enlarging stations when the snow is becoming even more scarce? Shouldn’t we be focusing capital and investments somewhere else?
Let’s take a look around. This station is one of the lucky stations to still have a lot of snow. Others are not so lucky. In Cantabria, north of Spain, a new ski station was opened last year after a great deal of investment by the regional government. The snowing season was so terrible there that they still have to open after one year. Meanwhile somebody is paying all the expenses. You guessed it: the taxpayers.
Every community would like to have their own ski station. They attract tourism and generate business where none existed. That’s how they make their case for state subventions and those huge investments in infrastructure.
But in the end they always want the same: to build a huge amount of apartments and houses that will have to be paid in 30-year-mortgages. That’s of course if the banks decide to finance the final buyers. The real estate companies will try to sell everything as quickly as possible. After all, a season without snow is a rare occurrence, isn’t it?
Is it an efficient use of resources to build this kind of complexes with state subventions, using natural resources and to serve an excuse for building new houses in an already depressed state market?
Tell it to buyers in 30 years time when the global warming has further progressed and they have beautiful houses with no prairie.