Europe's record heat wave limits summer skiing

Summer skiing is over for this year! at least in France! After Tignes, the glacier of Les 2 Alpes has closed its slopes to skiers.

Les Deux Alpes
After the early closure of the Grande Motte glacier in Tignes on July 25th, it is the turn of the Les 2 Alpes glacier to close its slopes before the end of the summer. Despite a snowy spring that could guarantee good conditions at the beginning of the summer season, the record temperatures and excessive melting of the last few weeks have been very damaging for the snow pack on the glacier.  

Acording to the ski resort representative : "After 65 days of summer opening with sometimes complicated conditions (red: sand from the first day of opening, 2 heat waves with a maximum at 19 ° C to 3200, the south wind etc. ..), and given the situation current and future weather, it is no longer possible for us to offer a quality ski product on our glacier area of ​​the 2 Alpes."

There have been two main heatwaves with peak temperatures of 19C at 3200m in Les 2 Alpes.

The Grande Motte glacier in Tignes, which has slopes up to 3300m, was due to stay open to skiers until 4 August, but the resort reluctantly closed the pistes on 25 July. The glacier has not been spared by the scorching temperatures that have been recorded in France since the beginning of summer. The conditions of safety and quality of the ski experience are unfortunately no longer met.

"The glacier has been subjected to high temperatures since the beginning of the summer season, and we are no longer able to operate the slopes in good conditions," said the Grande Motte Cable Car Company.

"Between the heat and the episodes of heat wave, we have no more snow to work. Cracks are formed and it has become dangerous," it added.

Closing in July means Tignes, which opened for snowsports 365 days a year back in the 1990s, will again miss its target of operating for at least a day every month of the year which it has been achieving in recent years by opening from late September to early May for its main season then late June to early August in the summer.

Swiss glaciers experienced unusually high melt rates during the last heat wave, which occurred in late July, and an earlier heat wave that struck the continent in late June. Matthias Huss, a glaciologist with Swiss University ETH Zurich and head of GLAMOS, tweeted last week that the nation's glaciers lost about 800 million metric tons of ice during the two heat waves alone.

Meanwhile in Norway, two of the glacier areas that normally open in August have also shut. Folgefonn summer ski centre and the Galdhopiggen Glacier were to remain open until early September but also announced their immediate closure last week thanks to high temperatures and melting snow.

There’ll be no lift-accessed summer skiing in Norway this August after two of the country’s glacier areas which normally stay open to the autumn announced they were shutting up shop early this summer.

Folgefonn (“Fonna”) summer ski centre, pictured top, had planned to operate to early September but called it a day on its 2019 season last week citing high temperatures melting away remaining snow cover.  It is still opening for ski teams who had booked glacier times.

The Galdhopiggen Glacier (below) had planned to operate to mid-September but now says that with temperatures set to reach the high teens by the weekend in the area it will end its season this Sunday, July 28th.

It is a long-term trend but the heat waves exacerbate the problem
It's the latest continuation of a long trend. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since at least the mid-19th century. And the losses seem to be accelerating over the last few decades. Scientists have observed declines across Europe, including glaciers in the mountains of France, Austria, and Italy. One recent study published earlier this year in The Cryosphere estimated that about a third of all the glacier volume in the European Alps could be lost by the year 2100, even if world nations manage to meet the climate targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. Under a scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current levels, more than 90% of the ice could disappear.

Summers like this one, marked by extraordinary heat waves and high levels of melt, only exacerbate the problem.
Written by skiweather on Wednesday August 7, 2019

Categories: snowreport, news

« Southwest dump at the start of springMont Blanc glacier threatens to collapse »