IUBH study on winter vacations in Germany: More than just snow

Climate change is bringing about many changes, including less snow in Germany’s low mountain ranges. This also impacts the winter tourism. The IUBH University of Applied Sciences has examined the topic in broad study.


According to the statistics portal Statista, nearly one in five Germans enjoys skiing: a large and important target audience for German tourism regions. Yet a successful skiing holiday demands snow and that is just what is causing issue for the low mountain ranges. While 69 per cent of the low mountains were guaranteed to have snow in 2007, according to climate researcher Professor Bruno Abbeg, only 13 per cent will definitely have snow in 2050 and only 3 per cent with certainty in 2100. Especially regions with slopes that are located on less than 1,500 metres above sea level are facing a major challenge. In future winter seasons, they must guarantee sufficient snow by technical means such as snow cannons – with all the connected financial and ecological consequences. But how important is snow for a winter holiday? And how high is the proportion of those who would rather spend their winter holiday somewhere else should there be too little snow? That is what the IUBH researched amongst winter holidaymakers. For the study, a team of professors and more than 150 students from the tourism industry surveyed over 1,000 tourists in ten German ski resorts in the low mountain ranges.

Not all tourist groups demand snow

Less surprising: Especially for skiers and snowboarders – totalling 45 per cent of those surveyed – the certainty of snow has the highest priority. What is more astonishing, by contrast, is that other groups – cross-country skiers, sled riders and winter hikers – rather view the certainty of snow in a subordinate role, even-though their main activity also requires snow. At 38 per cent, these three groups pose a third of the surveyed guests after all. Equally interesting: The older the questioned person, the less important snow is for them.

More than half of all surveyed guests were doing one of the classic sports disciplines during their winter holidays – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Activities that are independent of snow, such as partying and relaxing at a spa play a subordinated role at 6 and 5 per cent respectively. Nevertheless, more than half of the respondents stated that the certainty of snow did not play an important role for them. Especially guests who have been to the lower mountains frequently before ranked certain snow lower than those who had not been to this region as often. Regular guests thus appear to not see a certain snow setting as absolutely necessary.


Evidently, sufficient snow depth is only a decisive holiday factor for skiers and snowboarders. Yet it is not for more than half of all guests. “For the German winter sports regions, this means that they can continue to be attractive travel destinations thanks to alternative offers”, explains tourism economics Prof Dr Felix Wölfle. This is also confirmed by Prof Dr Linda Schnorbus of the IUBH: ‘For the low mountain regions, our study contains the relatively positive news that climate change will at least not keep all winter visitors away from the regions.’


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