Snow cannons are no longer used in the Drôme department in southern France. Green lanes or white lanes: nature decides. The six ski slopes in the region will never again be sprayed with artificial snow.
The department council decided this. Due to global warming, snow is often low in low-lying ski areas such as Drome. According to the department, climate change is happening faster than keeping up with the snow cannons. “It costs a lot of money to make snow and it’s bad for the environment, whereas we know it’s just a delay,” says Six Slopes Division Director Cedric Vermond.
Controversy rages across all ski areas
As far as is known, Drôme is the first French department where it has been officially decided not to use snow machines anymore. But debates about the consequences of climate change rage at all ski resorts. Because these changes are in full swing, say scientists.
In December, half of France’s ski slopes are closed due to a lack of snow. In the same month, snow had to be transported by truck for the Biathlon World Championships in Grand-Bornand, near Annecy. In January, a French journalist published two legendary photos of the Chartreuse mountains: stark white in January 2022 and completely green in January 2023.
In February, it is calculated that there has been as little snow in the northern French Alps in the past 60 years as in the previous month of February. On Mont Blanc, the ice melted at an altitude of 3842 meters.
Switch to summer view
The ski slopes in Drome were also forced to close last month during part of the school holidays. The department wants to invest heavily in “four seasons tourism”: there should always be something for visitors to do even without snow. For example, hiking and cycling tours are organized, tourists can practice archery and there are areas for go-karts and golf.
“It is always possible to ski, but if there is no snow in the winter we can quickly move on to the summer range of activities,” says Cédric Fermond.
More than one in three ski resorts deploys cannons
Snow cannons are necessary in more and more places to keep the slopes white. In France, more than one in three ski resorts publish cannons. But the devices are also coming under increasing criticism.
Not far from Mont Blanc, the municipality of La Clusaz wanted to cut down trees last year and build a huge water basin to supply snow cannons from there. The judge overruled the plan. According to the judge, he wasn’t sure the economic interests of the ski slopes outweighed the protection of nature.
This past winter, environmental activists made themselves heard. Snow cannons were destroyed and disabled on many French slopes.
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