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Winter Warm Spell Stifles Skiing in Swiss Alps

The Alps are seeing a dearth of snowfall this winter amid unusually warm temperatures, forcing closures at some slopes.

On New Year’s Eve, temperatures in parts of Switzerland were around 29 degrees F (16 degrees C) above normal, according to MétéoSuisse, the national weather agency. In Delémont, a ski destination in the Jura Mountains, the daily high neared 70 degrees F (roughly 21 degrees C).

Snowfall has been sparse below 2,000 meters (around 6,500 feet), the agency said. The Alpine Skiing World Cup, which will be held in the Swiss village of Adelboden, will take place on artificial snow, the Associated Press reported. And at some low-altitude resorts, paltry snow cover has forced operators to shut down lifts entirely, the BBC reported. With skiing on hold, a few resorts have reopened summer bike trails.

“In the future these problems will get worse because the snow will continue to melt as long as the climate warms,” Wim Thiery, a climate scientist at the University of Brussels, told the Associated Press.

This winter’s skiing setbacks come after a summer in which heat waves forced the closure of classic alpine climbing routes. Mountain guides feared the rapid melting of glacial ice would lead to rockslides.

Last year was the hottest in Switzerland since record-keeping began in 1864. “The course of the year was marked by lasting above-average temperatures, a lot of sunshine, and a lack of rainfall persisting in some areas,” MétéoSuisse said. France, Germany, Britain, and Spain also saw their hottest years on record.

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