The alpine resorts present a sad face at the beginning of January with bands of earthy snow winding on brownish hills, in the midst of very mild weather related to global warming. In France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, many slopes are closed. The cause is the exceptionally clement temperatures in Europe that melt the snow.
In Semmering, 1 hour’s drive from Vienna, where the Alpine Ski World Cup events were held at the end of December, only 2-thirds of the site is barely accessible. There has been no snow for weeks, so it is useless in terms of profitability to run snow cannons as long as the temperature does not drop below minus 3 degrees, Nazar Nydza, the station manager, told AFP. “The environment is not wintery”, he laments himself, though he has some hope for the rest of the season.
Frequent fatal accidents
Among ski fans, Gregor Macara, a tourist from New Zealand, would have liked to discover Austria “under a white blanket” of snow. “It is disappointing… What a pity!”, says the 34-year-old scientist.
Over the years, this mountainous region has seen increasingly scarce snow cover, a trend that will accelerate in the coming decades in areas above 1,500 meters, according to UN climate experts (Giec). Before this winter, hundreds of mechanical ascents were already closed in the Alps, as they have lost about a month of snow at low and medium altitude for half a century.
Is the life of skiers put at risk? The debate arose this winter in Austria, after a series of fatal accidents. In total, 13 people died from November 1st to January 3rd, compared to an average of 7 during the same period in the last decade, according to official statistics. Investigations are underway, but the lack of snow is what stands out the most to explain the deaths of some people who had fatal off-road trips on stony terrain.
Desolate landscape in Switzerland
The same desolate landscape is seen in Switzerland. In the town of Leysin, only the top of the mountain is dotted with snow and skiers concentrate on the slopes located at more than 2,200 meters above sea level. Below you can see grass on the expanse, very different from the dreamy landscapes on postcards.
Jean-Marc Grosseur, a mountaineer who came from Laustana, expresses “his anxiety for him because of what is happening with our climate”. In another Swiss ski resort, Torgon, people are also lamenting.
The tourist office proposes games based on enigmas to be solved within a time limit, or clue games in the forest, explains Emilie Byland, who lives in the region. “It’s worrying, this makes us sad”, she adds.
A tourist from Zurich, Anna Reiner, “worries about the higher temperatures every year”. In other places dance or yoga courses are proposed to replace the offers.
Those responsible for ski schools and professionals want to be optimistic and say that in other times there were also seasons with similarly mild temperatures. They say it as if to ward off the climate change that threatens their work.