Glacier closure over Toussaint prompts climate fears

Les Deux Alpes is one of the oldest ski resorts in France, but will be closed for the first time over Toussaint this year

The glacier of the “Deux Alpes” in Isère will be closed for the first time ever during the Toussaint holidays this year, prompting fears over the impact of climate change in the area.

Toussaint - or All Saints’ Day - is a traditional autumn holiday in France, taking place this year on Wednesday November 1, with many taking the opportunity to get away for a few days, often to the mountains.

The area around the Deux Alpes is said to have the largest skiable glacier in Europe, and is one of the country’s oldest ski resorts, just behind Chamonix, which features the famous mountain Mont Blanc.

And yet, this is the first time in 40 years that the Deux Alpes ski resort glacier has been closed at this time of year, although the resort itself is still open and welcoming guests despite the lack of skiing, reports French news source 20 Minutes.

The situation is said to have been worsened by no snowfall, the very hot summer, and no rainfall since the beginning of the summer.

The ski area, which at best has previously seen 7,000 skiers visit over the Toussaint holidays, has seen its seasonal visitors drop to 2,000 per year on average, and this year, there will be no skiers.

Commentators have denounced 2017 as a terrible year, and evidence of worsening conditions due to climate change and global warming.

Gilles Vanheule, director at the local tourism office, confirmed there had “not been enough snow” to merit opening the pistes.

“2017 has been a catastrophic year, in a catastrophic trend,” explained Delphine Six, from climate change research centre The Institute of Environmental Geoscience (l’Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement (IGE)).

“Over the past 30 years, we have seen generalised loss of glacier mass, but the trend has considerably accelerated since 2003.”

An example used to illustrate this change is the Saint-Sorlin glacier in the Grandes Rousses region, which between 1985-2003 was said to lose around a metre of glacier mass every year, all over. Between 2003-2015, the average loss per year has risen to two metres, reports 20 Minutes.

“This means that our glaciers are losing twice as much volume as before,” said Six. “By 2100, most glaciers under 3,500 metres high will probably have disappeared.”

The 2 Alpes station is attempting to fight back, however, with managers creating artificial snow and ice using 40,000 litres of underground lake water, in a bid to create a protective layer of ice on the glacier.

It is not yet known how successful this attempt will be long-term.

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