The impact of global warming has led to dwindling snowfall, forcing the ski resort to take a drastic step – dismantling its ski lifts.
As winter approaches, ski enthusiasts look forward to the crisp mountain air and fresh powder on the slopes. However, for La Sambuy — a picturesque ski resort near Mont Blanc in the French Alps — this winter brings a grim reality.
Once known for its family-friendly skiing destination, the resort has seen its ski season reduced to just a few weeks, making it financially unsustainable to keep the ski lifts operational. According to CNN, there was only a meagre four weeks of snow last winter with insufficient coverage that allowed rocks to emerge on the slopes.
Operating for fewer than five weeks in January and February, the resort faced an annual operating loss of approximately 500,000 euros ($828,000 AUD).
WATCH: If you do make it back to the slopes, here’s a sneaky travel hack…
La Sambuy’s Unique Appeal
Despite its relatively modest size with just three lifts and a handful of pistes reaching up to 1,850 meters, La Sambuy attracted visitors with a range of slopes catering to both expert skiers and beginners. Its affordability made it a sought-after destination for families seeking a more relaxed Alpine experience.
UK snow report website On The Snow described it as:
“An idyllic place to visit, with exceptional panoramic views and everything you need in a friendly resort.”On The Snow
The Resort’s Closure and Future Plans
This summer, as the town council deliberated the fate of the winter season, the decision was made to close the resort. While the skiing infrastructure will be disassembled soon, there is hope that the town can continue to attract visitors.
La Sambuy’s mayor, Jacques Dalex, envisions the resort transitioning into a place for “discovering and protecting nature, going on walks, doing sports, if possible.” La Sambuy’s website now confirms the ski resort’s closure as of September 10, marking the end of an era.
La Sambuy is not alone in facing the devastating consequences of climate change: Saint-Firmin, another small Alpine ski destination, removed its ski lift last year due to a shrinking winter season attributed to climate change.
Mountain Wilderness, a French environmental group, has reported dismantling 22 ski lifts in France since 2001, with 106 abandoned ski lifts across 59 sites still awaiting removal.
Climate Change Threatens European Ski Resorts
According to a report published by the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, 53% of 2,234 ski resorts surveyed in Europe face a “very high snow supply risk” at a global warming level of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, without support from artificial snow.
Those resorts situated at medium mountain altitudes between 1,000 and 1,500 meters are at particularly acute risk, but Mayor Dalex summarised the wider issue:
“All winter sports resorts in France are impacted by global warming.”Jacques Dalex
A Community’s Fight to Preserve
Despite the closure, not everyone in La Sambuy is willing to surrender without a fight. An association called “All Together For La Sambuy” launched a petition this year, urging for the resort’s survival through a more sustainable model. They propose operating the chair lift in the summer to transport visitors up the mountain.
The petition has garnered over 1,900 signatures, and the association’s president — Christian Bailly — indicates that legal action is being pursued to reverse the town council’s decision. He believes that the resort’s closure is detrimental to the local community, describing it as:
“A social element of our small town of 7,500 inhabitants.”Christian Bailly
Climate change is coming and it’s coming faster than any of us expected. Here’shoping that governments around the world are willing to enforce climate-proofed policy as quickly as is necessary not only to keep La Sambuy in business but to keep us all travelling comfortably forevermore…