No snow ‘for a month’ for some French ski resorts

Holidaymakers who were hoping for a white Christmas at French ski resorts have been left disappointed due to a severe lack of snow, which has left some ski runs completely bare.

No snow 'for a month' for some French ski resorts
The ski restor of Méribel, taken on December 16th. Photo: Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP

Thanks to unseasonably high temperatures, some resorts, particularly those in mid-mountain locations, have not seen a flake of snow for almost a month.

Sandra Larue, a weather expert, told BFMTV that December 2016 could end up being the “calmest” on record due to a “blocking anticyclone”, which can lead to long periods of stable weather.

The resorts worst affected are in the Massif Central, in central-southern France, and The Vosges and The Jura, in the east, where slopes are completely bare.

The Chalmazel ski season in Massif Central, as seen from the webcam on Wednesday.

There has also been hardly any snow in resorts in the south-western Pyrenées mountain range. 

While more snow has fallen in the Alps, skiers must climb high to find it.

“It's generally a little better in the Alps, notably in the north and above 2,500 metres, in Haute-Maurienne and Haute-Tarentaise,” added Larue.

“This is snow which fell in November. The situation is also a little better in the southern Alps, notably between Devoluy and Parpaillion, and closer to  the border, notably the Mercantour mountains, where snowfall has almost been excellent.” 

Capcir in the Pyrenées, today.

While it's been a lacklustre start to the season for most resorts, those trying to attract visitors in areas where it has still been possible to ski have bemoaned the publicity surrounding the poor conditions.

“It hasn't been an easy year for some sites,” said François Veauléger, the director of tourism in Montgenève, in the higher Alps.

“It's this globalization which is very complicated at the moment. But when you hear 'there is no snow in the Alps', it's very hard because sites do have it, and make every effort, working through the night, to ensure that conditions are good enough for holidaymakers then next day. It's simply unjust to then read that there isn't any snow.” 

But his words are of little comfort to some of the 45,000 seasonal staff still waiting to start work.

“No snow, no work,” Fanny, who was supposed to start work at a ski station in Albiez, in the lower Alps, ten days ago, told Europe1.

Karine Pellissier, who runs a crêperie at the bottom of a ski run at the resort, said she hasn't been able to hire a full team of staff due to less custom.

“Usually, by this time, I have three people working full-time. Right now, I have two, and they're doing half the number of hours. It puts their season in danger.”


It looks like they'll have to wait until the new year to see signs of improvement.

“From Thursday, the anticyclone is expected to shift a little towards central Europe, but in general the last week of the year looks anticyclonic,” said Larue.

“There'll be lots of sunshine until Sunday, then the cooler air could arrive on Monday.” 

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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.