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Thursday, 5 November, 1998, 23:25 GMT
No snow in the Alps
Skiers are left idle as warm weather shuts resorts
As warm weather threatens to close some 200 Swiss ski resorts, British and Swiss scientists have begun a joint study to examine the impact of global warming on the Alps.

Their inquiry follows some unusually warm winter weather that has left many skiing resorts without fresh snow for weeks.

The resort of Wengen, where the investigation is taking place, is one of many villages that relies on skiing for its economy. Yet it has gone for five weeks without snow.

Scientists are not yet sure whether the warm weather is caused by man-made gases or natural variations in the climate.

Although the reasons for the warm weather have yet to be discovered, for the tourist industry, the rise in temperatures has been noticeable.

Jost Brunner from the Wengen Tourist Board said: "We often hear that we have global warming. It might be correct - we don't know, But as far as we can judge it, I'd say in the last four or five years there's been a rise in temperature."

snow cannon
Snow cannons are essential - but some days it's too hot for them to work
Meanwhile, Wengen has had to resort to artificial snow, without which many slopes would be too rocky and bare to ski on.

In the past few months it has invested heavily in the cannons which turn water into snow.

Paul Zwegintzov, a British ski group organiser, says the equipment is now essential for low-level resorts, which need to have to adapt to the changing climate

"Without snow cannons, there isn't a chance, even at the present temperatures," he said.

Meanwhile, scientists predict that within 50 years many low-level resorts will cease to exist, forcing skiers to go ever higher up the Alps.

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