Despite a desperately needed foot of snow falling on the Swiss Alps this week, Europe remains deep in drought, with one of the worst starts to the season in memory. It’s as if California shipped 2014-15 across the pond.
How bad has it been? In Chamonix, they opened the petting zoo for kids suffering from acute lack of shredding. Helicopters ferried snow to bone-dry slopes in Meribel, France. Some places have raised lift ticket prices to keep people off the disintegrating snowpack, while others have asked locals to leave the slopes to tourists.
Across Europe, December was 4º Celcius above the 10-year average, and 2015 was the hottest year globally on record.
The media have been quick to blame global warming, while scientists are more cautious, saying that the warmth is “consistent” with climate change models. Daniel Goetz, a meteorologist with the French weather service, told Bloomberg, “What’s expected with climate change is that winters with very little snow cover will become more frequent. In the future it will become more and more difficult to offer snowy slopes.”
The impact hasn’t just been economic. Injury rates are rising dramatically on the Continent. Nearly 100 hurt skiers and boarders are brought every day just to Innsbruck’s University Hospital, and officials say that more than 330 are getting seriously banged up across Austria each day.
“Normally, you break a leg and you fall, maybe you slide a bit further and hit the snow but that’s it,” Johannes Schwamberger, a hospital spokesman, told Bloomberg. “Now, when you fall you slide and hit a rock, or a tree, break another bone, get a bruise, that’s where the multiple injuries come from.”
Nikolai Schirmer doesn’t seem too worried about the consequences. The Norwegian filmmaker and law student who’s made a name for himself gunning flat out in the best of conditions is doing the same in some of the worst. Check out his sick December in Chamonix edit below. I’ve seen what thin snowpack can do to skis and body, so…better him than me.