Suitability analysis of ski areas in China: an integrated study based on natural and socioeconomic conditions
The successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics (Beijing 2022, officially known as the XXIV Olympic Winter Games) has greatly stimulated Chinese enthusiasm towards winter sports participation. Consequently, the Chinese ski industry is rapidly booming due to enormous market demand and government support. However, investing in ski areas in unreasonable locations will cause problems from an economic perspective (in terms of operation and management) as well as geographical concerns (such as environmental degradation). Therefore, evaluating the suitability of a ski area based on scientific metrics has become a prerequisite for the sustainable development of the ski industry. In this study, we evaluate the locational suitability of ski areas in China by integrating their natural and socioeconomic conditions using a linearly weighted method based on geographic information system (GIS) spatial analysis combined with remote sensing, online, and field survey data. The key indexes for evaluating natural suitability include snow cover, air temperature, topographic conditions, water resources, and vegetation, whereas socioeconomic suitability is evaluated based on economic conditions, accessibility of transportation, distance to a tourist attraction, and distance to a city. As such, metrics ranging from 0 to 1 considering both natural and socioeconomic conditions are used to define a suitability threshold for each candidate region for ski area development. A ski area is considered to be a dismal prospect when the locational integrated index is less than 0.5. The results show that 84 % of existing ski areas are located in areas with an integrated index greater than 0.5. Finally, corresponding development strategies for decision-makers are proposed based on the multicriteria metrics, which will be extended to incorporate potential influences from future climate change and socioeconomic development. However, the snowmaking model with local data should to be used to further analyze the suitability for a specific ski area.