There are two things that strike fear in off-piste skiers and snowboarders, avalanches and crevasses! But now there is a third, climate change!
The famous Vallée Blanche above Chamonix looks set to lose its status as one of the longest lift-served ski runs in Europe, at least for this winter! Climate change is melting away the Mer de Glace glacier that lies beneath it. Threatening this iconic ski runs both this year and in the future.
The ski run in a good year is 20km long, with a potential vertical descent of around 2700m, which begins from the access point at the Aiguille du Midi lift station. This is located at 3,842m and runs all the way back down to Chamonix at an altitude of 1,100m.
It’s estimated of the 80,000 skiers and boarders that make the 4 to 6-hour descent each winter in recent years they have ended their descent at Montenvers, at 1,800m. So far this winter we understand that no one has been able to complete the run down to Chamonix due to lack of snow.
It is still just about possible to ski down to the Montenvers point, from there you climb a series of metal steps to a gondola which takes you up to a mountain railway station which takes you back to Chamonix. Very worryingly, 30 years ago there were only a couple of steps but since 1990 the glacier has retreated by over 100 metres of depth at the Montenvers point and there are now more than 430 steps to climb up. As each year passes another 10 steps are added to the climb, a sobering message to us all about the worrying effects of climate change.
This video was recorded in 2016 when conditions allowed for the full Vallee Blanche to be skied