The list of European training glaciers affected by present climate challenges continues to grow. Although there was concern at Zermatt, the highest training glacier seemed unlikely to be seriously troubled. Therefore, the decision to suspend glacier operations after skiing on the 28th 0f July shocked the ski racing community.
Initially, the lack of snow during the 2021-22 winter and the record high temperatures created difficulties. Then recent rain events at elevations above 13,000 feet increased the challenge. In addition, managing the crevasses on the glacier is becoming more difficult. Consequently, Zermatt will temporarily suspend skiing on the glacier.
In a skinews.ch interview, Zermatt management revealed that the snowpack on the glacier started the season more than 20 feet below normal.
Zermatt explains that the closure will begin on the 29th of July and continue until cooler weather arrives. They also make it clear that this is temporary.
Zermatt knows their glacier and will maintain the lifts and the ski field during the interruption. They will also continue to prepare their extraordinary speed lane. Management is confident they will be able to return to normal operation when the weather cooperates. Additionally, they have started preparation on the Swiss portion of the Gran Becca. Gran Becca is the new World Cup DH course debuting at the end of October.
The temporary closure is undoubtedly causing many teams to reorganize their training plans. This is a time of year in Zermatt when it is common to see many of the best skiers in the world preparing for the coming season.
Saas Fee glacier update
While Zermatt closes, Saas-Fee brings good news. Their glacier remains open for training. Notably, the Swiss and Mikaela Shiffrin are currently among the teams in Saas-Fee. This indicates that when the nights are clear, conditions remain good. If you have access after Thursday, this is the place to be.
However, relief from the current climate cannot come soon enough for the many teams that rely heavily on European glaciers to prepare.
Additionally, there is excellent news coming from the Southern Hemisphere. After two COVID years of not allowing visitors, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand report that their early snowpack is very promising. Ski areas are experiencing good natural snow and snowmaking conditions. It will be interesting to hear how the isolation has changed the Southern Hemisphere ski communities. Some of our southern friends are no doubt excited to see ski racing return and some probably liked the reprieve. One thing is certain, over the years the ski racing community has shown its ability to adapt.