Alpine glaciers are melting at an alarming rate & summer glacier snowsports may become a thing of the past. PlanetSKI reports from the Alps.


As the glacier high above Les2Alpes in France opened for summer skiing last month there were the usual big queues at the bottom.

The glacier can see up to 2,500 skiers and snowboarders per day on its slopes.

Heading up

Heading up. Image © PlanetSKI

Some are professional ski and snowboard athletes, others from race clubs, some people are keeping their skills up to scratch over the long summer months and others are just there for the fun and novelty factor over skiing in the summer on a glacier.

Some members of the British Team were out training.

The demand is certainly there but maybe in the coming years the glaciers will not be.

They are melting.

No-one can deny that they have been shrinking at an alarming rate in recent years.

This year is no exception and summer conditions are not at their best.

“Some parts of the Alps saw fresh snow last week but, generally speaking, it has been a very warm late spring and early summer,” said the alpine weather expert, Fraser Wilkin from Weathertoski.co.uk, this week.

“For now, most of the skiable glaciers are still in reasonable shape, but there is concern about whether certain summer ski areas can last the pace – especially those scheduled to remain open all summer – should temperatures continue above average throughout July and August.”

“The weather in the Alps is forecast to be hot over the next few days, with maximum temperatures close to 30°C in many of the lower valleys.”

There was poor snow in the autumn, a shortage across the winter and much of the decent quantities that fell in April simply melted.

And then there was the pan-European heatwave of mid-June.

A typical day of summer skiing usually starts of icy and then runs become slushy as the temperatures rise with the slopes closing at lunchtime.

This was the scene on the opening weekend going up the first T-bar shortly after 9AM.

Alpine glaciers

Alpine glaciers. Image © PlanetSKI

Heavy overnight rain had also affected things – sadly it was not cold enough for that rain to be snow.

Even at 3,6000m.

In French Alps Tignes is open for summer skiing on its Grande Motte glacier and in Switzerland the slopes of Zermatt are open.

The Zermatt glacier can also be reached from the neighbouring Italian resort of Cervinia.

In Austria Hintertux is open.

See here for a PlanetSKI story on which resorts are open across the summer months:

Saas-Fee in Switzerland also offers glacier skiing and 8 years ago I reported on the impact of temperature rise on the glacier.

It has deteriorated further since I made this short film back in 2009.

The Saas-Fee glacier opens for summer skiing this year on 15th July.

Alpine glaciers

Alpine glaciers. Image © PlanetSKI

So, what can be done about it?

There are a few small initiatives that are taking place in the Alps:

In Les2Alpes new snowmaking is going to be installed and the resort does more and more to harvest and keep the snow.

But it is damage limitation rather than a long-term solution.

The problem is, of course, a global one.

President Trump has pulled out the Paris Climate accord and that has been met with dismay by many environmentalists and those that fear for the impact on mankind’s current and future environmental impact.

But some US ski resorts have joined up to continue meeting international environmental targets:

In North America glaciers are being hit in a similar way as the ice melts.

This summer a camp in Whistler has called it a day after almost 30 years – there simply isn’t enough summer snow left.

However another snowpsorts camp is continuing and currently reports good conditions up on the glacer:

Some predict summer glacier skiing will be over by the end of the 21st century – others predict we will be lucky to get another couple of decades in some resorts.

Here at PlanetSKI we are skiers & snowboarders, not scientists.

But we have seen with our on eyes what has been happening since we first went summer glacier skiing in Tignes 20 or so years ago.

And we have one recommendation – go and experience it while you still can.

And there are plenty of other activities on offer:

Do it while you still can – it may not be on offer for much longer.

Monte Rosa as seen from Swiss side

Monte Rosa as seen from Swiss side. Image © PlanetSKI

For the Spirit of the Mountains – PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news