As climate change redefines the landscape of high mountain environments, so changes the scope – and its limitations – of summertime mountaineering in the Alps.

While sunnier weather and warmer temperatures lead to a rise in certain nature-based tourism, such as visiting natural parks and camping, they are causing the crysophere to melt, leading to more frequent and intense gravitational processes (such as rockfall), creating an increasingly dangerous setting for mountaineers.

In the Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism’s new publication 'Strategies used by French Alpine guides to adapt to the effects of climate change', the results of a questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews provided lead author Jacques Mourey and co-authors Clémence Perrin-Malterre and Ludovic Ravanel with a comprehensive look into which French Alpine guides are adapting to the changing nature of their environment (and which ones aren’t) as well as 33 methods of adaptation and five major strategies.

The main finding of this study is the identification of the adaptation strategies implemented by French Alpine guides, as tourism is very sensitive to climate change effects. The difficulties the guides encounter, mainly due to the socioeconomic context, are explored.

“In this context, two categories of Alpine guides are distinguished: one seems to have difficulties in adapting to the effects of climate change while the other seems to face the challenge with greater ease, depending mainly on their personal motivations,” says Jacques.  Indeed, Alpine guides have the possibility to adapt through the diversification of their activities. However, this implies a redefinition of their job that does not always match their preferred vision of the profession.

“In the future,” Jacques continues, “we are going to conduct similar research on other professionals such as ski instructors and hut keepers. Their adaptation seems, in theory, more difficult. Unlike Alpine guides they do not have the possibility to implement as much adaptation strategies, such as diversification and mobility.”

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Mourey J, Perrin-Malterre C, Ravanel L. (2020) ‘Strategies used by French Alpine Guides to Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change.’ Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 29, 100278.

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