Hotels throughout the Alps are underbooked; the Italian hoteliers’ association reckons that the lack of snow has so far cost its members £400m this year. World Cup races have already been cancelled or rescheduled in France’s Val d’Isere and Megève and Switzerland’s St Moritz, and one was only able to go ahead in Hochfilzen, in Austria, after local people trucked in 15,000 cubic metres of snow from Grossglockner, the country’s highest peak, to create a thin white run through otherwise green pastures.
Of course that is not the worse of it:
Right across Europe’s highest mountain chain, says the World Meteorological Organisation, only a third as much snow as usual has fallen so far this winter. Temperatures are up to three degrees centigrade higher than normal, and in some resorts the weather is so warm that even artificial snowmaking machines will not work.
[…]A two-year study, which the organisation is due to bring out in February, will conclude that at present 609 of the 666 medium to large Alpine ski resorts have adequate snow cover for at least 100 days a year – but that these could drop to just 200 if temperatures rise by four degrees centigrade. This is something that, according to some experts, could happen by 2050, on the worst-case scenario.
Germany would be the worst affected, with just a one degree rise – which the experts say could happen by 2020 – leading to a 60 per cent drop in resorts with reliable snow. In fact, the Alps abound with signs that climate change is already well under way. In the 15 years running up to the turn of the millennium, they lost nearly a quarter of the area taken up by glaciers. And more than another five per cent melted in the blistering summer of 2003 alone. Average snow levels are half what they were 40 years ago.
Once the rich and pampered find out there is not going to be any snow in their favorite ski resort in Switzerland, they will be global warming’s most ardent activists. Then again, I live near the beach…