In France, we are already skiing on… last year’s snow

After a torrid summer, the snow has finally covered the Alps in recent days. But the small French resort of Bessans kicked off its Nordic skiing season last weekend by offering… last year’s snow, sourced from snowfarming, a Scandinavian conservation technique.

Oh the snow!”, Jeanne Richard, 20, has just strapped on her skis and taken her first lap on the small 3-kilometre cross-country ski trail created from scratch last week by snow groomers from a massive 13,000-meter snowdrift cubic carefully preserved. all summer, close. “The fresh snow that just fell the day before is not good, but it is not embarrassing, we adapt. And then we are so happy to be able to ski in early November!”, explains the young woman, a member of the France B biathlon team.

“If the weather had remained mild, we would have made the decision to postpone the opening.”

Cross-country skiers and high-level biathletes are the main beneficiaries of this early opening, the first for a Nordic resort in France this year – excluding glacier sites – although the general public also has access in the afternoon. This is the fifth consecutive year that Bessans, at an altitude of 1,700 meters, resorts to snowfarming, a technique that consists of keeping the snow from the previous winter -a natural and artificial mixture- under a thick layer of sawdust, a “sarcophagus” that limits it is melting The chosen site, facing north and in the shadow of a mountain, enjoys a very cold microclimate, and the snow pile has been pampered throughout the summer with a rake to “prevent cracks and heat infiltrations”, explains Laurent Vidal, director of the station.

In the end, this summer only 17% of the stock was lost despite the heat wave, according to him. When the time comes, the sawdust is removed and stored in a separate pile to await reuse next year, and the snow is transported by truck and then spread on a hard-packed ice rink. This welding technique while waiting for the first “real” winter snow is only used in a handful of stations in France, but more so abroad where white gold stocks are even artificially cooled.

Getting closer “not necessarily unanimousin these times of climate crisis, he acknowledges. But criticism sometimes falls under “discussion counter” and the municipality is “sensitive to problems“Environmental,” he says. As for the decision to open the station last Saturday, it was only made after being “well thought” with the help of specialized meteorologists. “If the weather had remained mild, we would have made the decision to postpone the opening.”, explains the mayor.

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