Alpine tourists sled down brown hillsides

Brown hillsides and slivers of snow – a familiar sight across the Alps in Europe, and a far cry from the winter wonderland tourists used to deal with.

While some snow started falling again early this week, Europe has seen “extreme” warm winter weather in recent days, experts say, with 2023 already setting record January temperatures across the region.

From Austria to France, Italy and Switzerland, the slopes have melted – with temperatures too high to even produce artificial snow.

Many lower-end resorts are closed, while others are offering reduced services.

“In recent days it hasn’t been cold or wintry… so winter vacationers probably don’t like ice skating,” Nazar Nidza, managing director of Semmering Hirschenkogel Bergbahnen, told AFP.

– ‘Anxiety’ –

As of Monday, it hadn’t snowed in weeks at Simmering, and temperatures hadn’t dropped below minus three degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit) in days, meaning it wasn’t economically feasible to make artificial snow, according to Nydza.

About a third of the slopes are closed at the small resort, which is still holding a World Cup race at the end of December and is located less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Vienna.

“It’s a shame. It was nice to come to Austria in the middle of winter and see everything snowed,” said Gregor Makara, 34, a climatologist from New Zealand who was visiting a friend.

Also Read: French Alpine Village Says Goodbye To Ski Lift Last Winter

To the west, in Leysin, Switzerland, near the border with France, student Alexis Potiron, 19, said artificial snow was “not the best conditions for skiing.”

But he said it “always makes us happy, we’re with our friends, we’re having fun.”

Many expressed concern about the high temperatures and the lack of snow.

Jean-Marc Gros, a hiker from Lausanne, said he felt “a little anxious about… what’s happening to our climate and our future.”

– Fatal accidents –

Along with the lack of snow in Austria, an increase in the number of fatal skiing accidents has made headlines.

The Austrian Alpine Safety Council said in a statement last week that so far this season 13 people have died in skiing accidents, compared to a 10-year average of seven for the same period.

Although investigations are ongoing, some have said the lack of natural snow is making conditions more difficult.

Amid the negative headlines, ski resorts and tourism officials across the Alpine regions are in a brawl after two years of coronavirus-related restrictions.

Also read: Four dead, five missing in French Alps avalanche

They say the final visitor numbers at the end of the season will be significant – so if it snows again, the numbers could still be positive.

said Walter Veit, president of the Austrian Hoteliers Association, which mostly represents high-end hotels.

– Yoga instead of skiing –

Some ski stations have already moved in to offer alternative activities, seeking to make up for the lack of snow.

The Swiss resort of Flumserberg, near Zurich, where about a third of the length of the slopes opened late last week, has organized special packages, including dance and yoga courses, for ski pass holders.

Torgon, a small family resort in the Valais Alps between 1,200 and 1,900 meters (3,900 and 6,200 ft) above sea level, had to close for skiing, and hiking took its place on the slopes.

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Anna Rainer, who was visiting from Zurich, said it was “worrying when the temperatures are always getting higher and higher”.

“Of course I’m sad, I love to skate, but what can we do?”

“Today we went for a walk, and it was fun, but it’s different,” she said.

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