The production of artificial snow and the use of snow additives in ski resorts have increased
considerably during the last 20 years. Their ecological consequences are the subject of environmental
concerns. This review compiles studies about the ecological implications of ski
pistes preparation in general and of artificial snow production. The main direct impacts of
ski piste preparation on the vegetation are related to the compaction of the snow cover,
namely the induction of soil frost, the formation of ice layers, mechanical damage and a
delay in plant development. The vegetation reacts with changes in species composition and a
decrease in biodiversity. Artificial snowing modifies some of these impacts: The soil frost is
mitigated due to an increased insulation of the snowpack, whereas the formation of ice layers
is not considerably changed. The mechanical impacts of snow-grooming vehicles are mitigated
due to the deeper snow cover. The delay of the vegetation development is enhanced by
a considerably postponed snowmelt. Furthermore, artificial snowing induces new impacts to
the alpine environment. Snowing increases the input of water and ions to ski pistes, which
can have a fertilising effect and hence change the plant species composition. Increasingly,
snow additives, made of potentially phytopathogenic bacteria, are used for snow production.
They enhance ice crystal formation due to their ice nucleation activity. Although sterilised,
additives affected the growth of some alpine plant species in laboratory experiments.
Salts are applied not only but preferably on snowed pistes to improve the snow quality for
ski races. The environmental impacts of most salts have not yet been investigated, but a commonly
used nitrate salt has intense fertilising properties. Although snowing mitigates some
of the negative impacts of ski piste preparation in general, new impacts induced by snowing
could be non-beneficial to the vegetation, which, however, has yet to be clarified.