Europe’s unusually warm winter is taking its toll on many ski resorts suffering from a lack of snow. Some of them operate in a limited mode, others had to close. So people are trying to move to higher places where they can ski. It is increasingly being said that these slopes alone are the future of European winter entertainment, while the resorts below are likely to come to an end.
A mild winter brought unusual scenes to Europe. Alpine slopes in January are sometimes bare, the greenish-brown landscape is broken only by the white lines of the slopes, where ski resort owners try to fight ture with artificial snow machines. Even this is a futile struggle in some places due to high temperatures.
In France, for example, less than half of the slopes have been open in the past week, according to the lift operator association Domaines Skiables de France. Several competitions had to be canceled there, not only in skiing, but also, for example, in dog sledding.
Operations centers can be filled
A similar situation has developed in Switzerland, where the income of lifters has fallen by about a tenth compared to last year. Some campuses in Austria and Italy are also closed. “This has caused a lot of problems, some people are stuck in resorts where there is nothing to do without snow,” Fraser Wilkin of the French Alps ski holiday company Snow Wise told Bloomberg. “No skis, no snow, and taxis to areas with snow cost a fortune,” he added.
Suitable places to ride can also be found in problem areas at high altitudes, Wilkin said, but be aware that they are busier than usual. “Malltaler Gletscher is enjoying fantastic conditions. This is one of the few places in Austria that has so far been in perfect condition throughout the entire holiday,” said Chenek Yilek, Tatra Mountain Resort Operations Director (TMR), as an example of an area that was not affected.
In Austria, in addition to the glacial Mölltaler Gletscher, TMR owns sister ski resort Ankogel-Mallnitz, where similar conditions prevail, according to Yilek. And the company’s last resort, the Muttereralm near Innsbruck, is also doing well. Currently, Bloomberg recommends, for example, the Italian resorts of Madon di Campiglio and San Martino di Castrozza, the Austrian Obertauern and others.
Cycling or relaxing instead of skiing
Alpine hotel operators note that people, as a rule, did not cancel the reservation and tried to enjoy their vacation even without snow. An example is the British Christine Harrison, who has been visiting the small French resort of Praz de Lys Somman for twenty years. “There’s literally no snow this year,” she told CNN, noting that instead of plowing the slopes, she’s watching bewildered wildlife from her hotel balcony.
Some resorts are trying to adapt and offer mountain bikes instead of skis. But even this is not possible everywhere. “There is too much snow for cycling, but not enough for skiing,” said Jacques Murat, spokesman for Ax 3 Domaines at 2,400 meters.
The advantage for hoteliers is visitors from the Gulf countries, who, according to Wilkin, do not care too much about the state of the snow. “None of them know how to ski or even want to learn. They want to be there and show themselves on Instagram,” he commented to a group of clients from Dubai who are traveling to Courchevel, France.
The unfavorable situation has already sparked discussion about the future of European skiing. “These problems will get worse in the future as the snow continues to melt as the climate warms. Skiing in the Alps as we know it will come to an end by the end of the century,” Wim Thierry, professor of climatology at the Free University of Brussels, told Sky News.
His colleague at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Sonia Seneviratne, posted a graph on her Twitter account showing how Switzerland has warmed by 2.4 degrees Celsius over the past 150 years or so. “This is more than double global warming, which is now around 1.1 degrees. The temperature rises especially on land, and it is especially hot in Central Europe,” she warned in her column for Blick.
Working time is reduced
The work of the Alpine resorts is getting shorter and shorter. For example, in St. Moritz, located at an altitude of 1800 meters above sea level, ten years ago the season lasted from mid-October to May, this year it began in late November and will probably end in early April. “Green Christmas is becoming more common in the Alps,” says a recent report from the Davos Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research. “At the vast majority of stations, there is a clear reduction in the number of days with snow cover, regardless of their altitude or location,” he added.
In the future, according to the institute, only resorts above 2,500 meters above sea level will have enough tural snow to support winter tourism. Yilek noted that while operators in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have invested heavily in artificial snow systems in the past, this has not yet been necessary in Austria. “Everyone is used to a meter of snow falling at the turn of November and December,” he said. He believes that mainly small areas in the lowlands, which are found in almost every village in Austria, will decrease.
Of course, the problem concerns not only the Alps, but also other mountain ranges in Europe. For example, a recent study by the Slovak Institute for Environmental Policy, prepared for the Ministry of the Environment in Bratislava, draws pessimistic conclusions. He foresees a significant reduction in the winter season in a number of Slovak resorts.
“By the end of the 21st century, most likely, only high-rise centers will work. Therefore, the construction and development of areas below 1,700 meters above sea level should be considered in connection with these changes, and protected areas, including tiol parks, should be strategically oriented towards soft forms of tourism.
Last year was the second warmest year on record on the old continent, according to recently released data from the European Atmospheric and Climate Monitoring Agency Copernicus. It was possible to surpass it only by 2020. At the same time, last year Europe experienced a record warm summer, the second in a row was in 2021.