France’s Haute-Savoie region considers turning off snow cannons to preserve water

It’s not what holiday makers want to hear after weeks without natural snowfall, but there may be light at the end of tunnel

No matter how positive a spin you put on it and how hard you look for silver linings (usually along the lines of clear blue skies and well-groomed if firm artificial pistes), there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s been a poor start to the season for much of the Alps – for the third year in a row. Yes there has still been plenty of enjoyable skiing, largely thanks to heroic snow-making efforts by ski resorts, but the natural stuff has been incredibly thin on the ground in much of France, Switzerland and Italy.

To compound the bad news, Pierre Lambert, the head of the Haute-Savoie regional government, has announced that he may be forced to apply drought stoppage measures that could result in halting snow-making in many popular resorts in the area. Speaking to The Times, he said: “We are in a situation of drought to the point that without snow or rain by the end of [this] week I will be forced to make a drought stoppage. In January!”

Credit: snowmakers.com

Credit: snowmakers.com

Stopping snow making in January would be an extreme measure in a region very dependent on winter ski tourism, and could lead to a drastic deterioration in already poor piste conditions; it would be a hard blow to resorts still struggling to open even half their terrain in some cases. However no outright ban is proposed. Rather, resorts would simply be banned on using water from the mains network to blow snow, relying on mountain storage reservoirs instead. While even these are worryingly depleted after the Christmas and New Year holidays in some ski areas like the Portes du Soleil, others – like La Plagne and the Espace Killy – have greater reserves.

More positively, while many popular French resorts like Chamonix, La Clusaz, Megève and Morzine have missed out on the recent storms that have changed the game in previously equally drought-stricken Austria and northern Switzerland, significant snow is expected this weekend as a system moves in from the north west. Snow forecast websites like wePowder and Bergfex currently expect around 50cm to fall across much of the north and western French Alps, which would be enough to get the season back on track.

After 50 days without snow and the driest December recorded in the Haute-Savoie in 135, ski resorts, season workers, businesses and holiday makers alike will be praying that winter does indeed return to France this weekend.

 

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