Caring for Soils - Where Our Roots Grow.

Cross-sectoral soil management: joining mountain agriculture, tourism, water quality

The publication below describes the results of ongoing studies on soil protection activities on mountain pastures that are located in ski areas and assess soil properties, geomorphology and natural hazards. Soil data are interpreted and made applicable for an improved management of dual mountain sites (e.g ski slopes).

The results of the case studies are integrated in the guidelines you can find on this page.

Scientific Publications: Links to papers

Mid and long‑term ecological impacts of ski run construction on alpine ecosystems (

Soil types of Aosta Valley (NW-Italy)

A rock-glacier – pond system (NW Italian Alps): Soil and sediment properties, geochemistry, and trace-metal bioavailability

Climatic and pedoclimatic factors driving C and N dynamics in soil and surface water in the alpine tundra (NW-Italian Alps)

Abiotic Parameters and Pedogenesis as Controlling Factors for Soil C and N Cycling Along an Elevational Gradient in a Subalpine Larch Forest (NW Italy)

Influence of permafrost, rock and ice glaciers on chemistry of high-elevation ponds (NW Italian Alps)

Sustainable soil management in ski areas, Article in Sustainability 2017, 9 (doi:10.3390/su9112150) PDF

A system for classifying subsolum geological substrates as a basis for describing soil formation, Article to be published in CATENA

Description of the case study sites

Slovenia - Vogel & Kranjska Gora

1. Defining soil quality on ski slopes (Vogel & Kranjska Gora)


The ski resorts Vogel and Kranjska Gora are located in the Triglav National Park, which represents an area of 20.13 km2 of land in the north-western part of Slovenia. Kranjska Gora is a lowland ski resort with altitudes ranging from 800 m to 1,215 m and is stretching into four different segments: Mojstrana, Kranjska Gora, Planica and Podkoren, with 1519 inhabitants. The Vogel ski resort has no permanent population, while the residential area is concentrated in the larger municipality of Bohinj (8688 inhabitants). The altitude of the ski resort is between 1,535 m - 1,800 m. Both ski resorts are two of the most attractive tourist points in Slovenia, both in winter and summer tourism. Therefore, it is of great importance to maintain good soil practices in Triglav Natural Park and to protect this natural environment, despite the ski industry and summer tourism, which undoubtedly has several economic advantages for the locals as well as social benefits for tourists visiting the area.

The natural resources of ski areas provide many ecosystem services (ESS) to the environment and to people, including recreation and spiritual services, habitat provision (biodiversity), water retention, filtration and purification, local climate regulation, biomass production and global climate regulation (the carbon cycle). Therefore, these areas, along with sports facilities and human well-being, are of high environmental value.

Parent material on both ski resorts was derived mainly from carbonate rock (dolomite and limestone) and from non-carbonate parent material. The soil and vegetation characteristics of both areas are important factors that influence the degree of soil erosion. Due to the exceptional geomorphological variations and the different soil types and depths in both areas, all forms of erosion, including major surface mass displacements, take place, namely landslides, rockfalls and debris flows. Nevertheless, human impact, namely tourist activities, the construction of new ski lifts, the expansion of ski areas, the installation of more snow groomers and the terracing of steep slopes, dictate what affects the soil and is considered an ecological burden for this Alpine region from an environmental point of view.

The pilot study focuses on 1) the evaluation of soil erosion and 2) the soil characteristics and management of ski slopes, involving local authorities and ski slope managers (Vogel management teams and Kranjska Gora ). Soil properties and soil vulnerability were assessed in both ski resorts and some guidelines and best practices for sustainable soil management were proposed.


Italy - Aosta Valley

Aosta Valley is a mountain region located in N-W Italy. With a surface of 3.263,25 km2, a resident population of 127.329 people (1/1/2016), and a density of around 39 people/km2 distributed over 74 Municipalities, it’s the smaller and less populated administrative Region in Italy. The regional territory ranges from 340 m of the lowland areas in the central valley (about 100 km long) and 4810 m asl (M.te Bianco peak). More than 60% of the surface is located above 2000 m asl. Therefore, altitude is a driving factor in the socio-economic development of the territory, showing a strong vocation for tourism.

Aosta Valley shows a relevant spatial heterogeneity in the main soil forming factors (climate, parent material, relief, vegetation cover). Therefore, a large range of soil types can be observed, from very poorly developed Regosols (e.g deglaciated areas) to Phaeozems (alpine prairies), Cambisols and Podzols in agricultural areas and forests, respectively. Severe slopes, vegetation cover and snow cover at higher elevations strongly influence the soil properties and development. Also human impacts (ski runs construction, pasture, terracing on steep slopes) can affect soil characteristics. Among other disturbances, wildfires and avalanches can interact with soil evolution, too.




“Studying mountain soils and soil/snow interactions contribute to sustainable management of alpine ski resorts. Understanding high altitude soils and soil/snow dynamics can mitigate the impact of skiing in the Alps”
Ski resort manager





Monte Rosa, with Lys Glacier by Freppaz M. 27 10 15

The pilot studies focus on 1) soil erosion assessment and prevention and 2) ski slopes soil properties and management. Local stakeholders (Regional authorities, Municipalities, Ski slope managers) were actively involved and interacted with the project partners. Soil properties and vulnerability were assessed, and some guidelines and best practices were proposed for sustainable soil management.