Snowless slopes spoil holiday skiing in Switzerland

Deprived of their trademark powdery snow by unusually mild weather, Switzerland's world-renowned ski slopes have proven a disappointment to winter sports aficionados and resort managers eager to make most of the holiday season.

Recent temperatures climbing as high as a record 20.9 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) have severely disrupted operations at many ski resorts, even forcing some to temporarily close.

In Leysin, a resort village in the Vaud Alps, only a handful of skiers could be seen on Wednesday (January 4) descending a slope where a narrow pass of artificial snow had been laid to create a semblance of winter.

"We are seeing a decrease in usage of around 35-40% compared to last year," said Armon Cantieni, director of Tele-Leysin, which operates cable cars and other facilities at Leysin. "It's clear that we are worried."

Switzerland is warming at about twice the global average rate due in part to the heat-trapping effect of its mountains.

MeteoSwiss, the country's federal office for meteorology and climatology, said that 2022 was by far the warmest year since records began in 1864 with the average temperature at around 7.4 degrees Celsius.

Ski resorts across the country and cable car companies also have been struggling, trying to occupy tourists with other forms of leisure.

Brambruesch, a small resort west of Davos, kept vacationers entertained by opening its alpine bike paths on Christmas day to compensate for a delayed ski season.

At the upscale Gstaad resort, only 16 of 70 ski trails were open on Wednesday.

Sophie Ruchet, a resident of the Vaud canton who learned to ski at Leysin, wonders if it's even worth having her children learn to ski.

"It's heart breaking to see so little snow," she said. "One thought crossed our minds: is it still worth putting our children on the slopes to make them live those joyful moments now when we don't know what the future will bring?"

Norah Sweeney, a tourist from Boston, had prepared for a snowy Swiss sojourn, but her hopes quickly melted at the sight of yellowed grass on the slopes.

"We have no snow on the east coast in the US either right now, so all my friends were excited for me to come ski over here and have a lot of snow," she said. "So, same problem there."

A former staff who wishes to remain anonymous, from 'Kuklos' a restaurant located on top of the only opened ski slope, said he was fired last week due to the lack of snow.

After January 9, I have no certainty regarding where I will be. So, I'm a bit luckier than others that have no plan at all, but I don't have much more assurance that I will be able to finish this season here and with a job, like it was during past years,'‌ he said.

Shop and restaurant owners are hoping for the snow to return soon.

'I think that the impact will come later, if in January snow doesn't come, if's going to be a bit more difficult,'‌ said owner of a ski rental shop 'Endless Ride', Jean-Fred Tissot.

(Source: Reuters)

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