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Snowless French Ski Area Considers Future in Warming World

2020-2-15

France is experiencing an unusually moderate winter, which has led to low snowfall in ski areas across the country.

One affected ski area is Le Mourtis, in the Pyrenees mountains of southern France. The lack of snow has forced the resort to temporarily close its ski runs -- at the height of the winter season.

Local restaurants and hotels are seeing fewer visitors. People who do come to the area are seeking to do other things besides skiing. Warmer temperatures have made hiking one of the most popular activities.

Recent daytime temperatures at Le Mourtis have reached 10 degrees Celsius. Some hikers even removed winter clothing while making their way across mountain areas containing very little snow.

“Skiing? No one today can guarantee it,” said hotel operator François Gillaizeau. “If the snow is not here, we have to sell something else.” He has been making money by renting out two-wheeled scooters to help visitors in the area have fun.

The scooters can be ridden down grassy mountain hills. They come with equipment made for riding on snow, but Gillaizeau has attached bicycle wheels instead.

A general view shows the ski resort of Le Mourtis, with ski slopes closed due to lack of snow, in Boutx, France, February 10, 2020. (REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)
A general view shows the ski resort of Le Mourtis, with ski slopes closed due to lack of snow, in Boutx, France, February 10, 2020. (REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

His ski rental equipment remains untouched. He says he has had to reduce the hours of some workers and expects business losses during the season to drop as much as 15 percent.

Many people in the area believe the latest winter is more than just a bad year. The last time France experienced such a mild December and January was in 1900, French weather officials say.

Christelle Robert is an official with Meteo-France, the country’s national weather service. She told Reuters that mild winters and less snow seem to be a clear sign of global warming.

Scientists have predicted a continued rise in world temperatures. People connected to the area’s ski industry are considering a future with much less snow. If such weather continues, ski resorts around 1,600 meters above sea level will be so warm that they will not even be able to use artificial snow because it will melt.

Some of the higher Pyrenees resorts did receive enough snow recently to open for business. But the Le Mourtis resort sits at 1,350 meters, putting it in a so-called melt area.

“It’s the second year in a row that we’ve had no snow,” said Laurent Morel, a visitor from the city of Toulouse who was walking on the mountainside with his family. “We love the mountains so we come anyway.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Reuters news agency reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ski v. to move over snow wearing skis (a pair of long, think pieces of wood of plastic worn on the bottom of boots

resort n. a place where many people go for vacation

hikingn. go for a long walk in the countryside or mountains

rent v. to pay to use something for a short time

scooter n. a small vehicle that has wheels attached to a long board and handle

mildadj. not extreme

globaladj. relating to the whole world

artificial n. not natural, but made by people