Ski stations in France see some snow after major lack in mild January

Snowfall is predicted in the Alps and Pyrenees over the next few days, with the most above 2,000 metres, but it may not be enough for struggling lower-altitude stations

A ski station with ski lifts suffering from a lack of snow at the summit
Many ski stations in France have been suffering from a lack of snow this year, but some snowfall is finally forecast over the next few days
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Ski stations in France are welcoming the return of some snow after experiencing an unusually-mild December and January, with some medium-altitude stations are at risk of complete closure.

Some snowfall is forecast in the Pyrenees and Alps today and tomorrow (Sunday 8 and Monday 9).

Forecaster Météo France specifically said that around 20-30cm of snow would appear in the Pyrenees at altitudes above 2,000 metres. On Monday, between 5-10cm of snow is forecast from 1,300 metres.

Up to 50cm of snow could fall in the southern Alps at 2,000m or higher from tomorrow, but overall snow levels are still low. Some parts of the Alps will see snow mixed with rain, as temperatures hover above 0C.

Snowfall still ‘not enough’

The snow expected is unlikely to be enough to allow a major reopening of ski stations, or enable those with snow cannon to stop using them, Météo France said.

It stated: “This [snowfall] will be appreciated, but will not be enough for ski stations.”

Until now, satellite images have shown a significant lack of snow in many ski stations, especially in the Alps near the Swiss border.

A tweet sent by UK paper The Independent shows the extent of the lack of snow in the Alps, with a view over Switzerland.

Similar conditions were seen in Morzine and other nearby French stations.

Temperatures this year are well above seasonal averages in much of Europe. On the first day of 2023, a ‘heat record’ was broken across much of the continent.

Some ski stations in France have even had to close their pistes due to a lack of snowfall. For example, one smaller station in Isere, Collet d’Allevard (which has 11 ski lifts compared to 52 at the major station of Courchevel) has had to close completely.

Some stations are also facing criticism for their heavy use of snow cannon, which is not environmentally friendly. Some, however, including Collet d’Allevard, are unable to even use their snow cannon, as the ground is too warm to let the snow settle.

Some people who came to ski have switched their skis for hiking boots, Le Figaro reported. Many businesses in the region are trying to adapt to the unpredictable conditions, and are offering activities other than skiing (such as tobogganing, trail running, orienteering, biking, or hiking routes).

Conditions in Europe are expected to be even warmer in 2023, as the La Niña phenomenon (the opposite to El Niño), which brings colder temperatures, is forecast to come to an end.

One family in Collet d’Allevard remained optimistic, however.

Evan Bérenger, who runs a hire shop at the foot of the mountain, told Le Figaro: “We’ve seen worse seasons than this.” His mother, who helps to run the business, said: “In 2015, the first snow didn’t even arrive until mid-January.”

Evan said: “My grandfather even told us that in the 1970s, some years they didn’t get snow until mid-March.” He does not believe that small and medium-sized stations are at risk of permanent closure.

He said: “The snow will return for the end of winter. People are cancelling their February holidays [but we must say that isn’t necessary].”

More snowfall predicted for January

Rainfall, and some snowfall, are predicted throughout January. And while temperatures are still set to remain relatively mild, snowfall is expected.

Denis Roy, manager of the Alpes du Nord Météo France centre, told France 3: “We can expect that we will maintain this wet weather, which is favourable to snowfall, until January 23.

“This means two weeks with a high potential for snowfall, and a building up of snow coverage.”

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