Austria’s Molltal glacier is the latest summer ski area to report an unscheduled closure as warm summer sunshine and high positive temperatures even above 3,000 metres altitude in the Alps melts the snow cover from glaciers.
Molltal aims to operate for more than 10 months a year from mid-June to early May and was two months in to its 2019-20 ski season when forced to close as the glacial ice was exposed directly to the sunshine.
It usually operates about 3km of runs in summer used by race training teams as well as recreational skiers and boarders. However it has been forced to close for periods during August in several recent years.
It looked like this in June.
Molltal’s closure means that only one Austrian glacier is now open, the year round Hintertux, although its snow cover numbers have been dropping fast too, and it currently reports 50cm of snow depth left.
Summer skiing ended early in France too when Tignes and then Les 2 Alpes (which had originally hoped to stay open to this weekend) closed in late July/early August respectively. The country had also reported record high day and night temperatures at glacier level earlier this summer.
Two glaciers in Norway that are also due to be open through August are also both closed fort the same reason. Folgefonn and Galdhopiggen glaciers are both currently closed with the manager at Folgefonn reported as saying the rate of melting there this summer was unprecedented.
Four other glaciers in Europe are still open for summer skiing – Saas Fee and Zermatt in Switzerland and Passo Stelvio and Cervinia in Italy.
Half a dozen more glacier areas, mostly in Austria, are due to open from mid-September but some may need to wait for colder temperatures and fresh snowfall.