Accepted Paper:

Snow and the emergence of multiple natures in the European Alps  


Herta Nöbauer (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Based upon my fieldwork on snow in the Austrian Alps this paper explores the emergence of multiple forms of snow and nature in two ski resorts in Tyrol. It will do so by tracing the entanglement and effects of the multifaceted engagement with snow, specific technology, land ownership, and politics.

Paper long abstract:

Ski resorts all over the world play a crucial role in tourism and are important sites of an ever increasing 'vertical globalisation' taking place in mountain regions. Mass tourism along with unstable weather conditions and climate change has been changing snow scapes in comprehensive ways. More specifically, mass tourism has had significant impacts on the expectations and perceptions of snow scapes and the amount of snow required in defined spaces and seasons, particularly. One of the most determining expectations and marketing offers is to provide 'snow reliability' to tourists. The extensive use of snow making machines is considered to be the most successful way for realising this promise also in ski resorts in Austria where I have conducted fieldwork in the province of Tyrol. Snow making in turn involves a huge net composed of male experts, land owners and renters, manifold practices and politics, multifaceted technological equipment, energy, legally defined quality of water, of sensitive properties of air humidity and ambient temperature.

In my paper I will argue that through particular and gendered ways of engaging with snow and technology multiple forms of snow and of nature are being generated. It is not only the Western dualistic distinction between 'natural' and 'artificial' snow which is at work here and which also is employed for marking social differences. Rather I will show how beside this dominating distinction the 'natural' and 'cultural' properties and qualities of snow and nature are changing and leading to new forms and different validations of nature.

Panel P091
Living together in changing environments: towards an anthropology of multiple natures in Europe and beyond