Skiers delight as up to 60cm of snow set to hit French resorts

Heavy snowfall in the Pyrenees and Alps is a boost for tourism but avalanche warnings are in place in some areas

Ski slopes in the Pyrénées were able to reopen after a barren start to the year
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Up to 60cm of snow is set to fall in France’s major mountain ranges after an unseasonably warm start to the year forced many ski resorts to close.

There has been extended snowfall in the Pyrénées and Alps with snow falling multiple days in a row since the end of last week.

Both the Alps and Pyrénées saw snow at altitudes below 1,000 metres, and in the former, around 40cm fell at altitudes of 3,000m and above.

In parts of the Pyrénées, where snow is continuing to fall throughout the week and is predicted to continue into the weekend, more than 60cm may fall at altitudes of 2,500m and above.

The late arrival of the snow is expected to lead to a last-minute boost for ski resorts, with families travelling for the winter holiday season able to spend time on the slopes.

However, authorities are eager to remind people of the dangers of avalanches in the light of intense snowfall.

At least four people died after an avalanche in the Massif Central on Sunday (February 25), one of the worst natural weather accidents in half a century in the area.

Snow boosts tourism – and views

In the Alps, up to 80% of accommodation was already booked for the winter school holiday season, despite uncertainty over the amount of winter activities that would be available.

However, the flurry of snow is likely to see the final spaces booked up, and school zones A and B are still on their breaks until March 4 and 11 respectively.

Read more: MAP: French school holidays 2023-24 by region

In the Pyrénées, an almost complete lack of snow left mountainsides completely barren by the end of January.

In turn, most ski resorts were forced to close early, or diversify, offering amenities unrelated to winter sports.

Read more: Lack of snow hangs over school holiday ski season in Pyrénées

However, the snow has allowed ski resorts to rapidly re-open pistes, including in Piau-Engaly, the highest resort along the mountain chain.

Currently, 68% of the usual skiing areas are open for activities, but this has the potential to rise to 80% before the end of this weekend.

In the Alpes-Maritimes department, the Roubion-Les Buisses resort, the station most threatened by closure due to climate change in France, was able to open its slopes for the first time in months.

Each year the Cour des comptes gives the resort €600,000 to deal with running costs.

Skiers should check avalanche risk levels

Despite the good news for resort owners and skiers, authorities have been reminding people of the dangers of avalanches.

On Monday, a 4 out of 5 risk level for avalanches was temporarily put in place around the Pelvoux area by the prefecture of the Hautes-Alpes department.

In the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, a tier-three orange avalanche warning was issued at the beginning of the week and remained in place until midday today (February 28).

The caution is spurred on by the death of at least four skiers at the Mont-Dore (Puy-de-Dôme) resort on Sunday (February 25).

The skiers were taking part in a guided tour of the Val d’Enfer section of the resort when the avalanche struck.

They were conducting the route hors-pistes (off of the established ski tracks).

Three other individuals, also hors-pistes, were saved.

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