Alps face snow shortage in unseasonably warm winter

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Much of the Alps just don’t look right for this time of year. Sparse snowfall and unseasonably warm winter weather in Europe’s central mountains are allowing grass to blanket hillsides across the region, causing headaches for ski slope operators and aficionados of winter sports.

Patches of grass, rock and dirt were visible Monday in some of Europe’s skiing meccas, like Innsbruck in Austria, Villars-Sur-Ollon and Crans-Montana in Switzerland, and Germany’s Lenggries and far beyond. The dearth of snow has revived concerns about temperature upheaval linked to climate change.

On a swath stretching from France to Poland is enjoying short-sleeve weather. A weather map showed Poland racking daily highs in the double digits recently

It’s a sharp contrast to the frigid weather and blizzards in parts of the US late last year.

Swiss state forecaster MeteoSuisse pointed to some of the hottest temperatures ever this time of year. A weather station in Delemont, in the Jura range on the French border, already hit a record average daily temperature of 18.1 degrees Celsius on the first day of the year, over 2-1/2 degrees Celsius higher than the previous record high for January. Other cities and towns followed suit with records.

The shortage has been particularly burdensome around Switzerland’s Adelboden, which is set to host World Cup skiing on Saturday, and generally draws 25,000 fans for a single day of racing. 

Resorts like these look for such races to offer up bucolic wintertime images to draw amateur skiers, but grassy, brown sides to the course can mar the landscape, and dampen the appeal.

Meteo France says the southern Alps and, in the northern Alps, slopes above 2,200 meters, have seen close to normal snowfalls. But snow is notably lacking at lower altitudes in the northern Alps and across the Pyrenees, it said.

Germany too has seen unusually springlike temperatures, as high as 16 degrees Celsius in parts of the country on Monday. New Year’s Eve is believed to have been the warmest since reliable records began. 

The German Weather Service reported readings of 20 Celsius and just above at four weather stations in southern Germany.

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