Climate Change Is Affecting Adventure Sports. Are There Any Silver Linings?

Max here, the founder of Adventuro. I was previously a former strategy advisor to the Cabinet Office for COP26. My background positions me at the intersection of climate strategy and outdoor recreation, and I find it crucial to bring attention to the significant impacts of climate change on adventure sports and outdoor activities. From the Alps to the Atlantic Ocean, our beloved adventure playgrounds are undergoing irrevocable changes, and the ripple effects on tourism, economies, and our lifestyle are just starting to be felt.

The Bleak Outlook for Snow Sports

The snow sports industry is facing a grim future. According to Nature.com, snow cover duration in the Alps has decreased by 5.6% per decade over the last 50 years. That amounts to 36 fewer days of snow cover compared to the long-term average. Europe’s ski resorts are battling rising costs and an energy crisis, resulting in closed slopes, reduced hours, and increased prices. Lower-altitude resorts are grappling with an uncertain future. This is pushing visitors to higher altitude resorts, leading to overcrowding and exacerbates the environmental impact of these activities.

Regular snowsports enthusiasts, myself included, have been noticing this trend for a number of years now. This manifests in avoiding less ‘snow-sure’ resorts and shoulder season trips.

The impact also expands into the type of skiing and snowboarding you can do while in resort, with less certain off-piste conditions limiting the backcountry exploring you can do without utterly destroying your skis on a rocks. It also leads to greater erosion on the vegitation and slopes which lasts well into the summer, as skiiers ski on thin snow.

All this leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that many people favourite resorts will not be financially viable in the near future and will be forced to scale back or close.

Sub-aqua Sports: A Deep Dive Into Warmer Waters

The US’s NOAA has classified the current high sea temperatures in the UK as a category four marine heatwave, a.k.a. ‘extreme’, a label usually reserved for tropical waters. Sea temperatures off the UK, on average, 5 degrees warmer than they have been over the past 30 years. These changes have far-reaching implications on marine life, affecting everything from fish populations to the fragile coral ecosystems.

While some corals around the UK might actually spread due to climate change, this is such a small amount that the overall effect is massively destabilizing on other marine life. In better news, corals in the northern Red Sea appear to be more resilient to heat stress, although it’s uncertain how long that resilience will last. Given the decline of the global reefs, there is no time like the present for getting out there for scuba.

There are some excellent initiatives around the world to try to and save the reefs. These vary from trying to speed up the evolution of heat resistant strains of coral, coral seeding and farming to creating artificial reefs. There are also debates ongoing about the possibilty and risks of artificially relocating certain coral species to high latitudes where they may again flourish, speeding up a natual process that may take millennia.

Rocky Roads for Hiking and Mountaineering

Rising global temperatures have accelerated the decline of glaciers worldwide, making many popular hiking routes unstable. Just this past summer, several routes in the Alps were suspended due to frequent rockfalls. Tragically, a glacier collapse in the Dolomite region killed 11 hikers in last year. These incidents underscore the increasing risks and uncertainties facing mountaineers and hikers.

Landslides are regular phenomena, however, forest clearing and heavier rainfall have induced increased the frequency and severity of them. When hiking in the hills or mountains it is key to take heavy rainfall seriously.

A Silver Lining: An Extended but Unpredictable British Summer

While the news is often dire, there are some potential benefits. The British summer is gradually extending, although it is becoming more unpredictable. According to projections by the Met Office, by 2070, UK winters could be up to 4.5°C warmer and 30% wetter, while summers could be up to 6°C warmer and 60% drier.

These changing conditions also coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic effect on increasing the popularity of staycations in the UK. A study by RSM UK found that 36% of respondents plan to take a short break in the UK within the next year, a figure unchanged from 2022.

Combining these facts, I foresee increased demand for local adventure sports like surfing, kayaking, and hiking in the UK spread out across more months of the year. However, due to the uncertain weather, shorter booking windows and more last minute trips are also likely. Many of our partners have seen an increase in last minute bookings this summer. While unclear, this is potentially driven by the cost of living crisis. The aggregate impact in the UK is uncertain, but what is certain is that more extreme weather events will play havoc with planning and local infrastructure unless serious adaptations are put in place.

Conclusion

Climate change is no longer a future threat; it’s a current reality that is dramatically reshaping the world of outdoor and adventure sports. Immediate action is needed to mitigate these impacts and adapt to the changing conditions. We must act decisively to preserve what we can for future generations of adventurers. For the sake of adventure sports, we much also actively search out the new areas that enable sports and protect them.

Through our partnership with Rewilding Britain, booking through adventuro enables you to directly contribute to conservation. We also have a strong internal environmental policy commiting to be a net zero company from day one.

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Max
Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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