‘These are probably the worst conditions I’ve seen in the Alps in over 20 years’

ski austria snow christmas ski possible - Getty

ski austria snow christmas ski possible – Getty

Rain and mild out-of-season temperatures across much of the Alps have caused chaos during the peak two weeks of ski holidays, Christmas and New Year’s, raising concerns that climate change may kill the ski holiday, or at least the Christmas ski holiday sooner than we do. all thought.

Although there is plenty of snow in North America and Scandinavia, parts of Europe are the worst affected, with the northern French Alps being the region most popular with the British. Social media is awash with gruesome queues as skiers pack the chairlifts to find better conditions at higher altitude, along with pictures of bare slopes, green trees and muddy slopes, and crowded with enough white stuff on a few slopes.

Snow forecaster weathertoski.co.uk’s Fraser Wilkin says the situation is by no means unique – the 2015-16 season started with a widespread drought in the Alps until New Year’s – and although the situation in the north is “very bad” – other parts of the Western Alps such as the Dolomites has better conditions.

lack of snow skiing Semnoz france - Getty

lack of snow skiing Semnoz france – Getty

“Since before Christmas we’ve lived with mild temperatures and unusually heavy and prolonged rain that has destroyed a fair amount of snow that has fallen,” he said. “The rain was killer.”

Resorts offer free entertainment while they wait for the snow to come, and cut the cost of cable car passes – some of which will arrive next week – and while skiers are worried, few have canceled their holidays entirely.

Skiworld’s Diane Palumbo said ski vacation sales were strong, but concedes that the company “only has the highest snow-guaranteed resorts.”

He denied any suggestion that Christmas in the Alps could soon be a thing of the past. “We have the highest number of chalet bookings at Christmas, and people who choose to go out during the holidays often have helpful reasons – celebrating with family and friends, spending time together without having to cook Christmas dinner, and wash up.”

Skiers who book early in the season to secure an all-inclusive deal due to rising prices are among the worst hit.

“These are probably the worst conditions I’ve seen in the Alps in over 20 years,” says Louise Johnson of Lyndhurst, Hampshire, who spent the New Year in Alpe d’Huez with partner Mark Barwell. . Normally on a last-minute deal on terms, the couple bought an all-inclusive package in October this year to make sure of their vacation expenses.

ski holiday in the snow - ANTHONY ANEX/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

ski holiday in the snow – ANTHONY ANEX/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“It’s not that bad, there’s snow on the hill but it’s so hot that it doesn’t take long to have sleet and the snowballs aren’t working – but it’s still nice to be in the mountains and in the resort morale in general. OK.”

Which resorts are most affected?

There is currently plenty of snow nowhere in the Alps, but northern France and the western Swiss Alps are the ones most affected by rain last week due to mild temperatures. Lower resorts in Austria were also badly hit, and things look bleak at the Grand Massif’s lower France resorts, including Samöens, Megeve, La Clusaz and Portes du Soleil, which are closed until this weekend.

Conditions at Les Gets deteriorated so much that only three cable cars – the Chavannes gondola lift, the Vieux-Chêne drag lift and the Chavannes magic carpet – remained open despite the heroic efforts of the resort staff to maintain the snow cover on the slopes.

This aerial view, taken on January 2, 2023, shows tourists skiing on ski slopes in the middle of snowless meadows in Leutasch, Austria.  - Getty

This aerial view, taken on January 2, 2023, shows tourists skiing on ski slopes in the middle of snowless meadows in Leutasch, Austria. – Getty

With connections to Avoriaz still open, chaos erupted last week as queues for the connection between both resorts reached three hours, lift pass sales were suspended and skiers described the situation as a “nightmare”.

Which resorts still have good snow cover?

In North America, which faces extreme weather conditions, there is still plenty of snow with avalanche warning in parts of Colorado after severe storms, and conditions are also good in Norway and Sweden, where temperatures are cold.

In Europe, Italian resorts are at their best by avoiding the last rain, and while in Switzerland the snow cover isn’t what it usually would be at this time of year, most do a lot of jogging with high-altitude resorts. Zermatt and Saas-Fee offering favorable conditions.

What is a short-term forecast?

Fraser Wilkin says there will currently be some snowfall on Sunday and late Monday, but not enough to rectify the current situation.

“We really need a series of back-to-back storm cycles, and while it looks very promising, it looks like a pretty big storm right now and given the mild weather, I’m not convinced we’re going to get enough to change the game.” weather,” he said, but added: “The jury is still out.” You can find out more about snow-free resorts here.

What is the long-term forecast?

Long-term forecasts for the Alps are difficult, Wilkin said, because the weather is so variable, but he added: “In meteorological environments, there is real talk of a drop in temperatures within a few weeks, and while the building blocks are there, cold doesn’t necessarily mean snow – so anything It is very difficult to try to predict.

Can I get a refund if I cancel my reservation?

If your ski vacation is booked as part of a package – which means your flights, accommodation and at least one other essential item are included in the price – most operators will direct you to a ski resort or offer a refund.

Club Med, for example, directly engages customers affected by the closure of the Grand Massif, offering them alternative resorts if they wish to change.

If you have made an independent reservation; you will have to handle each item independently. If you’ve booked a flight, ferry or train, you can change your travel dates or apply for a full refund if you’ve purchased a flexible ticket – although rules vary. For example, EasyJet allows ticket changes for a fee, and Eurotunnel allows passengers with standard tickets to change their travel dates by paying any applicable difference between the original dates and the new dates.

While there is no legal requirement to offer a non-good faith refund for independently booked accommodation, that also varies.

For example, Tim Townsend of Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, owns a chalet in Samöens and offers a “no snow guarantee.”

“I got an email from my rental agent saying they had cancellation requests because the resort is closed,” Townsend says. “Since the facility is closed, we offer our guests who want to cancel 50 percent of the amount they spend with us as a credit for the next year.

“For the first time since I’ve owned the chalet for 12 years, the resort has actually been closed.”

If you have pre-booked cable car passes or classes that prove unnecessary if you can’t ski, you should refer to the resort or provider’s terms and conditions regarding your reimbursement or insurance policy. Remember, some (but not all) insurance policies cover weak profits, but only if the lifts are closed. So check the small print.

What else to do in badly affected resorts?

The resorts work hard to keep the snow on the slopes, as well as offer extra fun and activities, from ski tours and snowshoeing to snow karting, hiking, fat-bike and climbing. Cinemas have increased their offerings and tennis courts, ice rinks and swimming pools have either reopened or extended their opening hours.

In an unprecedented step, Les Gets reopens its cable cars to mountain bikers, offering free games and entertainment alongside the Tourist Office.

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