Many of France’s lower-altitude resorts were only able to keep their doors open for a few weeks before temperatures rose too high for snow to remain deep enough for winter sports.
The period immediately after Christmas was the warmest since 1997 in France and much of the country experienced “exceptionally high” temperatures, averaging at least 7 to 8C above seasonal norms.
🎄🌡️Noël 2022 se classe à la deuxième place des Noëls les plus doux depuis le début de nos mesures, derrière le 25 décembre 1997.
L'indicateur thermique national pour le 25 décembre 2022 a atteint 11,3 °C contre 11,7°C le 25/12/1997.
— Météo-France (@meteofrance) December 26, 2022
In the French Pyrenees, ten of the resorts 30 resorts have had to close their ski areas in recent days, and as of December 27th only a quarter of ski runs were open for skiing.
One such resort is Ax 3 Domaines, located in Ariège, which closed on Saturday after only being operational for three weeks this winter. It typically employs about 80 people.
Some skiers who had visited Ax 3 Domaines hit stones and rocks during their descents down the mountain, damaging their equipment, as a result of the lack of sufficient snow cover.
According to Jean-Claude Lorenzon, who owns a ski rental shop at the station, Ax 3 Domaines will not be able to open again until more snow falls.
Two other resorts closed their ski areas just before Christmas – Mourtis, located in Haute-Garonne, which closed on December 22nd, and La Pierre Saint-Martin, located in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, which closed on December 23rd.
As of January 2nd, forecasters expected temperatures to remain mild during the beginning of January, indicating that the closures could continue at least until the middle of the month.
The Vosges and Jura Mountains
Other skiable parts of France – like the Vosges and the Jura Mountains, have also been heavily impacted by warm temperatures, with less than a quarter of runs open for skiing.
In some places, like the Schlucht resort in the Vosges mountains, ski resort operators have been forced to adapt by opening the chairlift to hikers. “Usually, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the strongest of the season,” Laurent Vaxelaire, the manager of the resort told France Bleu.
While some resorts have been able to keep certain runs open with artificial snow, the technique is costly and energy intensive, and temperatures have to be near freezing for the machines to work.
The Alps have also been affected by rising temperatures, particularly those in the northern part of the range and sections below 2,000 metres. In Haute-Savoie, rain fell instead of snow, forcing the ski resort of Semnoz to close its doors completely during the Christmas holidays.
Another ski resort, Praz de Lyz Sommand experienced flooding after heavy rains just ahead of Christmas.
🌧 Triste image de la station de Praz de Lys Sommand en #HauteSavoie hier. Avec la douceur et les pluies abondantes, le pied des pistes s'est retrouvé inondé. Il a plu jusqu'à 2400 mètres d'altitude. https://t.co/QAyiCAa8x7
— Guillaume Séchet (@Meteovilles) December 24, 2022
And at the resort Les Gets, part of the famous Portes de Soleil ski area, only had two runs open on January 2nd.
Les Gets in @PortesDuSoleil this morning after incessant heavy rain & diabolical Spring temperatures. From today the green ski slopes of Mont Chéry are open to mountain bikers & hikers #nosnow #frenchalps #ClimateCrisis pic.twitter.com/NCj4GHBBZB
— Nicola Williams (@tripalong) December 31, 2022
According to projections Météo France, by 2050, the availability of snow cover in mid-mountain areas will be reduced to 10 to 40 percent current thickness due to the climate crisis.