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Europe Ski Resorts Close Due To Lack Of Snow, Forcing More Sustainable Approach

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A lack of snow is causing concern for ski resorts across Europe, and many low-lying stations are closing—leaving many worried about short-term holiday plans and long-term economic impacts in mountainous regions.

Since Christmas, France has experienced the warmest weather since 1997 with temperatures at least 7 or 8 degrees higher than usual, leading to a lack of snow in the mountains.

Across the border in Switzerland, Splügen-Tambo, which is under 1,500 metres, was one of the first resorts to close on Monday, saying in a statement, “unfortunately, due to the lack of snow, the heavy rainfall and high temperatures, we have to close our ski resort until further notice. It is no longer possible for us to prepare the slopes because we have too much water . . . and the snow does not freeze at night.”

Many others at low-lying altitudes have also had to close. Morzine in France does not currently have any snow and everyone is heading up to its higher neighbor Avoriaz, which means those slopes are very crowded.

Andy Sturt who lives in Morzine and owns VIP Ski, said of the situation: “There’s very much two experiences at the moment. If you’re above 1,700m it’s all white and everyone’s having a great time. But if you’re below 1,700m, it’s all green and you’re having to go to altitude to find snow.” Sturt added that this wasn’t unusual in recent years but that climate warnings for the future are a worry and that low-lying ski resorts are not able to hold snow as much as they used to.

In the French Pyrenees, 10 of the 30 resorts have had to close some of their skiing areas since New Year and only a quarter of runs are open. Elsewhere in France, at the Schlucht resort in the Vosges mountains, ski lifts are open to hikers rather than skiiers and in the Haute-Savoie region, more rain has fallen than snow, leading to flooding in the ski area of Praz de Lyz Sommand.

It is estimated that nearly 1.7 million British people alone will head to the slopes this winter, mostly to the Swiss, French or Italian Alps and many will be feeling pain if they have already booked—tour operators have varying obligations about what happens in a no-snow scenario.

Last-minute bookers (who are usually the more experienced skiiers and wait to see snow forecasts before booking) are heading to higher resorts. Skiworld, a tour operator, is reporting a tripling of bookings in high resorts or those on a glacier, such as Tignes in France, which sits at 2,500 metres.

Many resorts are relying on artificial snow but this is an expensive, energy intensive way to keep skiers happy.

It’s a situation that will only get worse. The University of Grenoble found that since 1951, almost half of the 169 ski resorts that have closed in France, have done so because of a lack of snow—and statistics show that many alpine resorts could lose up to 70% of snow cover by 2100.

France 24 covered the dismantling of a rusting chair lift in the French Alpine town of Saint-Firmin that went out of business 15 years ago. The project was overseen by Mountain Wilderness, an organisation dedicated to removing obsolete French ski infrastructure and replacing skiing with all-year-round sustainable tourism.

Many resorts are turning to other activities to bring in tourists—such as tree climbing or snowshoeing (where you walk across the snow with special boots). In the Pyrenees, hiking and cycling are the main activities being developed.

Other ski resorts are taking a different approach and attempting to future-proof current skiing arrangements. For example, Serre Chevalier in France is moving to power everything by shifting to solar, wind and hydro-power. There are solar panels on the chairlift roofs which produce more energy than they consume, due to the intense solar glare. Other lifts are powered by wind turbines and the piste bashers are hybrid (with plans to be totally renewably-powered by 2030). It has introduced eco-restaurants and is developing the idea of Eco-Gîtes (the French word for a holiday cottage).

There are also plans to reduce energy consumption in the resort by running ski lifts at a slower pace when there are shorter queues. It might provide a useful example to other ski resorts, as just a one-minute longer wait in line on the lift can lead to a 20% saving on energy used.


A lack of snow is causing concern for ski resorts across Europe, and many low-lying stations are closing—leaving many worried about short-term holiday plans and long-term economic impacts in mountainous regions.

Since Christmas, France has experienced the warmest weather since 1997 with temperatures at least 7 or 8 degrees higher than usual, leading to a lack of snow in the mountains.

Across the border in Switzerland, Splügen-Tambo, which is under 1,500 metres, was one of the first resorts to close on Monday, saying in a statement, “unfortunately, due to the lack of snow, the heavy rainfall and high temperatures, we have to close our ski resort until further notice. It is no longer possible for us to prepare the slopes because we have too much water . . . and the snow does not freeze at night.”

Many others at low-lying altitudes have also had to close. Morzine in France does not currently have any snow and everyone is heading up to its higher neighbor Avoriaz, which means those slopes are very crowded.

Andy Sturt who lives in Morzine and owns VIP Ski, said of the situation: “There’s very much two experiences at the moment. If you’re above 1,700m it’s all white and everyone’s having a great time. But if you’re below 1,700m, it’s all green and you’re having to go to altitude to find snow.” Sturt added that this wasn’t unusual in recent years but that climate warnings for the future are a worry and that low-lying ski resorts are not able to hold snow as much as they used to.

In the French Pyrenees, 10 of the 30 resorts have had to close some of their skiing areas since New Year and only a quarter of runs are open. Elsewhere in France, at the Schlucht resort in the Vosges mountains, ski lifts are open to hikers rather than skiiers and in the Haute-Savoie region, more rain has fallen than snow, leading to flooding in the ski area of Praz de Lyz Sommand.

It is estimated that nearly 1.7 million British people alone will head to the slopes this winter, mostly to the Swiss, French or Italian Alps and many will be feeling pain if they have already booked—tour operators have varying obligations about what happens in a no-snow scenario.

Last-minute bookers (who are usually the more experienced skiiers and wait to see snow forecasts before booking) are heading to higher resorts. Skiworld, a tour operator, is reporting a tripling of bookings in high resorts or those on a glacier, such as Tignes in France, which sits at 2,500 metres.

Many resorts are relying on artificial snow but this is an expensive, energy intensive way to keep skiers happy.

It’s a situation that will only get worse. The University of Grenoble found that since 1951, almost half of the 169 ski resorts that have closed in France, have done so because of a lack of snow—and statistics show that many alpine resorts could lose up to 70% of snow cover by 2100.

France 24 covered the dismantling of a rusting chair lift in the French Alpine town of Saint-Firmin that went out of business 15 years ago. The project was overseen by Mountain Wilderness, an organisation dedicated to removing obsolete French ski infrastructure and replacing skiing with all-year-round sustainable tourism.

Many resorts are turning to other activities to bring in tourists—such as tree climbing or snowshoeing (where you walk across the snow with special boots). In the Pyrenees, hiking and cycling are the main activities being developed.

Other ski resorts are taking a different approach and attempting to future-proof current skiing arrangements. For example, Serre Chevalier in France is moving to power everything by shifting to solar, wind and hydro-power. There are solar panels on the chairlift roofs which produce more energy than they consume, due to the intense solar glare. Other lifts are powered by wind turbines and the piste bashers are hybrid (with plans to be totally renewably-powered by 2030). It has introduced eco-restaurants and is developing the idea of Eco-Gîtes (the French word for a holiday cottage).

There are also plans to reduce energy consumption in the resort by running ski lifts at a slower pace when there are shorter queues. It might provide a useful example to other ski resorts, as just a one-minute longer wait in line on the lift can lead to a 20% saving on energy used.

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