The main activities in the Alps are connected with tourism, dairy farming, forestry, HEP and industry.
The valley floor is the ideal location for farming. It is sheltered, the land is flatter and the soils are deeper and more fertile. The valley floor also has better access and communications.
Traditional farming was dairying, using a system called transhumance, the seasonal movement of animals. This was the seasonal movement of cattle to the high pasture where butter and cheese were made. Mow quads and cable cars allow the milk to be brought straight back to the farm.
There are many important tourist centres in the Alps, such as Chamonix and St Moritz.
Big air at Chamonix!
Many new resorts have developed since the 1950s as tourism, especially skiing, has expanded. The tourist industry is so important that large amounts of money have been spent on roads, railways, tunnels. avalanche shelters, cable cars, hotels and restaurants. Some of these developments have also benefited the farmers and other local people.
The area attracts skiers, climbers and walkers, as well as people who simply want to admire the spectacular scenery. Alpine features attractive to visitors include:
· beautiful winter scenery with glaciated mountains, snow-capped peaks and forests
· lakeside summer resorts, such as Lucerne and Garda
· extensive winter sports facilities, both indoor and outdoor, such as ski slopes. ice rinks and toboggan runs
· good communications, close to international road and rail routes using Alpine passes such as the Simplon and St Gotthard, as well as international airports at Geneva and Zurich
. close to affluent parts of Europe, such as Germany and France
· the Alpine climate, with good snowfall but also crisp, clear days for winter sports, and summers, that are warm with showers.
Hydroelectric power (HEP) and industry
The steep slopes, high precipitation and summer melting of the glaciers produce fast-flowing rivers that are ideal for generating HEP The narrow valleys are easy to dam and there are lakes in which to store water Some of the cheap HEP is used by industries which require a high input of electricity, such as sawmills, fertilizer manufacture and aluminium smelting. Some of the electricity is also exported to other regions to supply towns and cities. Traditional industries in the Alps include papermaking, textiles, leatherworking, furniture and cuckoo clocks.
Up to a height of about 1 800m the slopes are covered in coniferous forests. giving rise to a timber industry. The soft wood is felled for use as fuel, for building and in the manufacture of wood pulp and paper In Switzerland, small craft industries use the timber in woodcarving and to manufacture the famous cuckoo clocks.