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 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 10:29 GMT
Poor snow for low ski resorts
Alps
Snow can be found at higher levels
James Cove

It has been a Christmas of two halves for the ski resorts of Europe - the high resorts have reported record conditions but the low resorts have a had a dreadful time with many not having snow on the lower slopes.

Some resorts report people cancelling their holidays. Despite a good start to the season many resorts had their snow washed away by rain just before Christmas.

For some it is the second successive Christmas with poor snow and there are fears that skiers and boarders may think again about skiing.

"The tour operators continue to sell holidays to resorts that really are not snow sure at this time of year," said Peter Hardy, the co-editor of the Good Skiing and Snowboarding Guide.

"I wouldn't dream of going to a resort below 1800m in France at Christmas and yet many people still do," he said.

Even Verbier (1800m) in Switzerland has had a poor time with no snow in the town and the runs to the resort slushy and only just open.

"It is not exactly a winter wonderland and what people expect at this time of year, but at least there is snow at the top in this famous Swiss resort," said Liz Russell, from the Ski Club of Great Britain.

Ski lesson
Some resorts report people cancelling their holidays

Some resorts have used snow cannons to create artificial snow in order to keep runs open. Les Gets (1100m), in the Portes du Soleil, has been making extensive use of them.

"We have come to be dependant on them at this time of year and they are very important to the resort," said Erik Bordeau, the head of snow making in the resort.

"Without them many of the linking runs would be closed."

The weather patterns this year confirm the long-term trends with the season starting and finishing later.

Some scientists say global warming is changing the Alpine weather systems as the temperature has gone up one degree in the past 10 years with a harmful effect on the multi-million pound skiing industry.

"There is no doubt that the temperature is rising and this is having a very bad effect on the low resorts which could see their skiing industry severely affected," Dr David Stephenson, a climatologist from Reading University, told the BBC.

Elodie Lavesrvre
Elodie Lavesrvre says higher resorts are unaffected
But it is not all doom and gloom, as the heavy rainfall in recent weeks has fallen as snow in the high resorts.

Tignes (2100m) and Val D'Isere (1850m) in France report record conditions and the best start to a season for a decade.

"We have had more snow so far this season than in half of last year," said Elodie Lavesrvre from Tignes Development.

"Temperature rises and global warming may be effecting the low level resorts but it is not harming us."

See also:

29 Nov 02 | Ski Sunday
30 Dec 02 | Europe
02 Jan 03 | Other Sports
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