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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 13:47 GMT
Ski resorts sweat in warm weather
The Alps
The peaks are snowy but the valleys remain bare
European ski resorts are hoping for sudden snowfalls to rescue the start to their season after an unusually warm autumn left slopes bereft of snow.

Some resorts have delayed their openings, while early season World Cup ski races have been cancelled.

While the peaks of many mountains have finally been dusted in white, lower runs are still green because it has been too warm to make artificial snow.

Tourist workers, however, say they are still optimistic of a white Christmas.

The lack of snow has been particularly felt in Austria, where newspapers have run headlines such as "Spring in December," and "Winter cancelled".

The resort of St Anton has delayed the scheduled opening of its season from 26 November to 8 December.

'Season lasts longer'

Eleanore Gudmundsson, from the Austrian National Tourist Office, says it is too early for skiers to get depressed.

"Of course we are waiting for the snow to come. Sometimes we have enough snow in the beginning of December, other years we do not have enough snow," she said.

Val Thorens (picture courtesy of Nick Newell)
The highest resorts, like Val Thorens, are well covered

"Basically, we can say that winter tends to start a little bit later but the tourist season lasts a little bit longer. This year, I remember skiing until the beginning of April and we had perfect snow conditions."

Resort officials, hotel owners and seasonal workers are pinning their hopes on storms forecast for this week.

Matt Taylor of the BBC Weather Centre said south-westerly and westerly winds had kept the temperature mild during autumn across Western Europe, but more northerly winds arriving soon could cause a drop in temperature.

"There will be a big low pressure area forming on Wednesday night in the Alps and a chance for snowfall on higher areas as those north-westerly winds arrive," he said.

All of Europe's skiing fields seem to be affected - St Moritz in Switzerland and Val D'Isere in France have cancelled skiing events, while Soldeu in Andorra, in the Pyrenees, has also delayed the start of its season.

Fears about the long-term prospects of the ski industry remain. A recent UN report on climate change warned that snowfall in low-altitude resorts in the Alps is likely to become increasingly unreliable in the coming decades.

Not worried

But local people say they have seen such conditions before.

Nick Newell, who runs a ski chalet for Nick Ski in the French resort of La Tania, says he is not worried.

"It's probably pretty similar to normal for this time of year - it's just not been very cold to put the [artificial snow] cannons on. But it only takes about three days to make a run up with cannons."

And any worries had had no effect on bookings, he said.

"We're up over 10% on last year, and choc-a-block for much of the season," he said.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The Austrian ski slopes without snow



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Skiers could be hit by big thaw
02 Dec 03 |  Europe

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