In welcome news for skiers everywhere, snow started falling across the European Alps yesterday (Sunday, January 8th) bringing a period of record high temperatures to an end. Further snow is expected this week, with the snow forecasting service WePowder predicting that the snowiest spot, the top of the Grands Montets in Chamonix, will see over two metres of fresh snowfall in the next week.
Ski resorts in Italy, Switzerland and Austria have also seen heavy snowfall since yesterday, with most expected to get over a metre at higher altitudes by the time the storm blows through. There’s snow falling as far east as Slovenia, Macedonia and Kosovo too. In Fai della Paganella, northern Italy, where this writer is based, we've seen heavy snow falling at altitudes above 1500m, with some 40cm accumulating since midday yesterday.
The snowfall is very welcome. After a relatively slow start to the season, a winter heatwave over the New Year period saw rain and record-breaking temperatures destroy much of the snow that had fallen, especially in France and the western Alps. With the mercury staying stubbornly above zero overnight, resorts couldn’t even create artificial snow to make up for the shortfall.
In Les Gets, resort authorities re-opened mountain bike trails on the lower slopes, while some French resorts, including the low-lying Samoëns, were forced to close completely for a period.
With brighter, whiter pastures ahead, the hope is that the European ski season has been jump-started at the critical moment, and the show is now back on the road. The sight of empty ski lifts dangling over green grass in January is certainly one we at Snow would be happy to forget, but we’d do well not to.
This recent winter heatwave, which saw record-high January temperatures jump by nearly five degrees C in some parts of Europe, is just one of the increasingly-visible symptoms of the worsening climate crisis—and a reminder that if we want to continue skiing at Christmas and New Year in future, we need to support campaigns to combat climate change and put as much pressure on those in positions of power as possible.