A ski resort in the French Alps has closed its doors permanently after a global warming-induced lack of snow has reduced its ski season to just a few weeks.
La Sambuy, a small family resort near the mammoth Trois Vallees ski area in France, was only able to open for a month last season and it has decided to dismantle its ski lifts since it was no longer profitable to keep them open.
Before, we used to have snow practically from the first of December up until the 30th of March.Jacques Dalex, La Sambuy Mayor, for CNN
Last winter was the critical moment when the family resort realized the business was near the end. La Sambuy Mayor, Jacques Dalex, said there were only “four weeks of snow, and even then, not much snow”. That meant “very quickly, stones and rocks appeared on the piste.”
La Sambuy isn’t a huge resort, with just three lifts and a handful of pistes reaching up to a top height of 1,850 meters. But maintenance costs started weighing. Able to open for fewer than five weeks during January and February, Dalex said the resort was looking at an annual operating loss of roughly 500,000 euros. Keeping the lifts going alone costs 80,000 euros per year.
Dalex said that “all winter sports resorts in France are impacted by global warming,” particularly those at a medium mountain altitude between 1,000 and 1,500 meters. The family ski resort in the Alps is not the only French resort facing closure. Last year, Saint-Firmin, another small Alpine ski destination, opted to remove its ski lift after seeing its winter season reduced from months to weeks, a situation also blamed on climate change.
The French environmental group Mountain Wilderness said it has dismantled 22 ski lifts in France since 2001, and estimates that there are still 106 abandoned ski lifts across 59 sites in the country.
According to a report published in August by the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, 53% of 2,234 ski resorts surveyed in Europe are likely to experience “a very high snow supply risk” at 2°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, without use of artificial snow.
Another report published in January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found a “substantial possibility” of global temperature rises crossing this 2°C threshold by mid-century — a death sentence to other struggling ski resorts.