A link between lack of snow and ski accidents?

A link between lack of snow and ski accidents?

This season’s low snowfall has led to an increase in the number of people visiting high mountain resorts, some of which are seeing an increase in the number of injuries, also due to the harder snow.

Explanation of the phenomenon…

1 – A significant increase in the number of people injured, both in Switzerland and in France

It is no secret that the 2022-2023 winter season is marked by poor snow cover, resulting in a lower quality of skiing than in other years, and even dangerous…

In fact, between 1 January and 6 February 2023, the Grisons Cantonal Hospital noted an increase of around 20% in skiing and snowboarding accidents on the ski slopes compared with the average for the previous five years. Serious injuries have also increased. Since the beginning of 2023, they have accounted for 4.2% of all accidents. Previously, this proportion was 3%, reports the “Tages-Anzeiger”.

In France, however, the situation is very different in the various resorts, according to the National Mountain Safety Monitoring System (Snosm), a system run by the Ministries of the Interior and Sport.

The low-altitude resorts that “were closed for three weeks or more” logically saw a drop in the number of people injured. This is reflected in the higher resorts, such as La Plagne, Megève and Avoriaz.

The Snosm anticipates a “slight increase” in the number of injuries in French resorts at the end of the season, of the order of about 5%.

2 – Finger pointing at artificial snow

Hypotheses are put forward to identify the causes of this increase.

If there is little natural snow, more artificial snow is needed. This is denser and harder, which can lead to higher speeds and therefore greater consequences in the event of a fall. It is also more difficult to maintain control on such a surface and easier to reach high speeds.

In addition, if there is little snow, stones or rocks appear more easily.

However, this is only partially reflected in the accident statistics.

3 – Point of comparison and future years?

In 2021, the number of serious ski accidents in Switzerland will be 7000, compared to 3400 in 2004.

There has been a real increase in the number of accidents for several years.

The number of air rescue operations is also rising. In 2022, Rega, which mainly responds to serious accidents, carried out 2141 missions. This is the highest number ever recorded.

Is this type of weather phenomenon likely to recur in the future due to climate change linked to human activities?

Météo-France explains that in winter sports resorts it leads to “a reduction in natural snow cover, both in terms of quantity and duration, particularly at low and medium altitudes” and “influences the air temperature and therefore the possibility of producing artificial snow”.

See what is in store for us in the coming years…

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