Record warm winter weather has meant green rolling hillsides instead of blankets of snow at some European ski resorts for the start of the new year.
Temperatures across Switzerland hit 7C on Tuesday, a dramatic fall from 20C recorded on Monday, as the impact of climate change is felt across the continent.
New record January highs were recorded in Germany, Czech Republic and Poland where its record was smashed by 5C.
Some resorts have been forced to close due to a lack of snow.
An abundance of snow is referred to as ‘White Gold’ locally, a reference to the boost to the economy in resort towns brought by skiiers looking for fresh powder.
Doctors are reporting more ski fall injuries this year at levels usually seen in Spring.
Swiss weather forecaster MeteoSuisse stated on its blog: “... this turn of the new year could almost make you forget that it’s the height of winter.”
Forecaster Anick Haldimann of MeteoSuisse said a persistent weather system that brought in warmer air from the west and southwest has lingered, locking in warmer temperatures expected to last through the week.
While slopes above 2,000 meters (over 6,500 feet) have got snow, lower down, “the order of the day is patience” for skiing buffs, she said.
The shortage has been particularly burdensome around Switzerland’s Adelboden, which is set to host World Cup skiing on Saturday, and generally draws 25,000 fans for a single day of racing.
Resorts like these look for such races to offer up wintertime images to draw amateur skiers, but grassy, brown sides to the course can mar the landscape — and dampen the appeal.
Course director Toni Hadi acknowledged that the race will be run on 100% artificial snow this year.
“The climate is a bit changing but what should we do here? Shall we stop with life?” he said by phone, noting that other challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and war show “life is not easy” these days.
“Everything is difficult -- not only to prepare a ski slope,” Hadi said.
Meteo France says the southern Alps and, in the northern Alps, slopes above 2,200 meters, have seen close to normal snowfalls. But snow is notably lacking at lower altitudes in the northern Alps and across the Pyrenees, it said.
Wim Thiery, a professor of climate science at the University of Brussels, said the same jet stream that pulled down cold air from the Arctic into the US has fanned warm air from subtropical zones into Europe.
He warned that climate change hasn’t finished its work — unless people cut use of fuels that trap heat in the atmosphere.
”By the end of the century (it’s) just going to be over ... skiing in the Alps as we know it,” he said, adding that lower-altitude mountain areas already feel the impact. “In the future, these problems will get worse, because the snow will continue to melt as long as the climate warms.”