Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ski runs are not created equal

Date:
December 25, 2009
Source:
University of California - Davis
Summary:
Building a new ski run by bulldozing a mountainside, rather than only cutting its shrubs and trees, is far more damaging ecologically, yet might offer only a week's earlier start to the downhill season, says a new study.

Ski slope. Building a new ski run by bulldozing a mountainside rather than only cutting its shrubs and trees is far more damaging ecologically, yet might offer only a week's earlier start to the downhill season, says a new UC Davis study. And even that extra week of revenue may be partly offset by higher summer maintenance costs.
Credit: iStockphoto/Nils Kahle - 4FR Photography

Building a new ski run by bulldozing a mountainside rather than only cutting its shrubs and trees is far more damaging ecologically, yet might offer only a week's earlier start to the downhill season, says a new UC Davis study. And even that extra week of revenue may be partly offset by higher summer maintenance costs.

UC Davis ecologist Jennifer Burt's study of seven winter resorts in California and Nevada's northern Sierra Nevada range found that ski slope grading, compared to clearing, is worse for plant abundance and diversity, reduces soil depth and fertility, and promotes erosion.

The study appears in the December issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

"Most large downhill resorts in the United States are on lands managed for the public by the USDA Forest Service, which is supposed to encourage multiple uses while attempting to protect the ecosystem," Burt said. "But ski areas are managed primarily for recreation, when they might be better managed to minimize negative impacts on water storage, nutrient cycling and biodiversity."

"Cleared" runs are created by cutting and removing tall woody vegetation as needed to create open skiing and riding pathways, but leaving the top layers of soil and their existing seed bank largely intact. "Graded" runs are cleared -- and then also machine-graded or leveled to remove tree stumps, boulders and slope irregularities. The grading process disturbs or removes much of the topsoil and most of the vegetation, resulting in significant decreases in all measures of ecosystem function considered in the study.

In fact, Burt said she found that cleared ski runs were functionally more similar to adjacent forests than they were to graded ski runs in terms of plant community composition, diversity patterns and soil characteristics.

"This begs the question as to why any downhill runs are graded," Burt said. "Resort managers told us that ski-run grading reduces surface depressions, hummocks and boulders, which means that less snow -- about 20 inches on average -- is required to open a graded run than a comparable cleared run."

At the Sierra resorts that Burt observed, graded runs opened about a week earlier than nearby cleared runs during the 2006-07 season. "However, managers also indicated that graded ski runs generally require more total summertime maintenance effort, due to erosion-control seeding and water-bar repairs," Burt said.

The study, "Not all ski slopes are created equal: Disturbance intensity affects ecosystem properties," was co-authored by UC Davis professor of plant sciences Kevin Rice.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis. "Ski runs are not created equal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091222104918.htm>.
University of California - Davis. (2009, December 25). Ski runs are not created equal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091222104918.htm
University of California - Davis. "Ski runs are not created equal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091222104918.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) — New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) — A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins