Diagnosis of the Quebec ski system’s vulnerability to climate change

This project will assess the vulnerability of the Quebec alpine ski system to climate change and identify risks and opportunities for intervention.

Project details
Scientific program
2020-2025 programming
Theme(s) and priority(s)
Economy - Climate Science and Climate Services
Start and duration
December 2022 • March 2024
Project Status
In progress
Linked project
Quebec’s ski system in the face of climate change
Principal(s) investigator(s)
Clara Champalle


Quebec’s alpine ski industry is very important to its regional and tourism development and contributes significantly to the economy of non-urban regions. In 2019, the industry accounted for 6.4% of tourism GDP and generated $866 million in economic benefits (ASSQ 2020). However, the ski industry is and will be affected, unequally across resorts and regions, by shocks (e.g. extreme rainfall in spring) and stresses (e.g. impacts of rising temperatures and liquid precipitation on winter operations). These shocks and stresses associate with climate change will be observed to varying degrees depending on the season. 


In fact, all the regions of Quebec are warming, but at different rates. For example, inland and at altitude, the increase in precipitation will be in the form of snow, while around the St. Lawrence and at low altitudes it will be in the form of rain. In southern Quebec, we are seeing less snowfall and increasing variability impacting the industry, particularly with a delay in the start of the season, a decrease in the length of the season and a decrease in the skiable areas available at the beginning of the season (Da Silva 2019). Added to this is the likely increase in other physical risks during the year, such as massive ground movement and flooding, affecting ski resort assets (ski lift breakage, damage to bike trails, etc.) and risks in terms of human resources (lack of manpower and growing need for expertise and training).
The economic analysis of climate change adaptation measures applied to the alpine ski industry in Quebec conducted by Ouranos (Da Silva 2019) shows that the alpine ski industry must: 

  • Renew its business models and diversify throughout all four seasons to be less dependent on snow 

  • Establish partnerships between ski facilities at the regional, provincial, federal and international levels 

  • Participate in the development of public policies supporting a more resilient economy (Steiger et al. 2019; GIEC 2022; Da Silva 2019). 

While some of these adaptation strategies are already in place here and elsewhere, the lack of local knowledge undermines the resilience strategy of the ski system at the organizational, institutional and operational levels, including: 

  • The diversity of observed impacts and future risks and opportunities during the winter, but also during the other three seasons 

  • Climate projections at finer spatial resolutions on snow precipitation and snow cover variability (Project 1 – PINS)

  • Data on the vulnerability of tourism industries to climate change in Quebec


The main objective of this project is to assess the Quebec alpine ski system’s vulnerability to climate change and to identify risks and opportunities based on two scales of intervention: 

  • On an industry-wide scale

  • On the scale of a sample of 29 ski facilities located in 14 tourist regions of various categories (small, medium and major)

The sub-objectives are:

  • To learn about the expected climatic hazards, especially those related to snow on the ground in Quebec, but also those that will be negative or beneficial in all seasons in the mountains

  • To understand the vulnerability of the exposed assets, activities and people as well as their sensitivity and adaptability in a future climate

  • To identify risks and adaptation solutions for ski facilities, but also more generally for the industry

  • To engage with stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the complexity of the system, taking concerns into account in order to propose effective, fair and sustainable solutions for all parties    

This project is part of the study Quebec’s ski system in the face of climate change


The methodological framework for developing a vulnerability diagnosis of the ski system is based on the principles of ISO14091:2021–Adaptation to climate change–Guidelines on vulnerability, impacts and risk assessment. This standard will essentially serve as a guide to assess the vulnerability and identify the risks and opportunities of the ski system in the face of climate change, as well as providing a basis for a climate change resilience plan with two scales of intervention (project 3 of the overarching study). 

A mixed approach will be used to achieve the general objective in seven stages of work, from the preparation of the diagnosis to the application of the results, through a participatory approach involving the engagement of stakeholders and the transfer of knowledge throughout the process, to develop a shared understanding of the complexity of the system while taking the concerns into account in order to propose effective solutions that are  fair and sustainable for all parties.

Expected results

The synthesis of the results will allow for the creation of a first strategic tool at the industry-wide level to equip ski facilities to optimize planning and decision-making in an unpredictable climate context. The dissemination of results and knowledge transfer will take place through various means: scientific publications, the media, visualization tools, an executive summary and webinars.

Benefits for adaptation

Benefits for adaptation

All participants in the mountain industry will be provided with a portrait of their vulnerabilities and risks related to climate change, allowing them to make informed decisions in their future activities.


Other participants

  • Pascal Bourgault, Émilie Bresson, Raphaël Desjardins, Eric Dupuis et Chantal Quintin (Ouranos)

  • Isabelle Falardeau et Louise Laigroz, (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières)

  • FDC Inc.

  • François Delorme, Florence Ouellet et Clarisse Thomas (Université de Sherbrooke)

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