Helicopters used to cover French ski resort in snow amid high temperatures

17 February 2020, 16:34

Helicopters were used to deliver snow to the ski resort
Helicopters were used to deliver snow to the ski resort. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Helicopters have been deployed to cover a French ski resort in snow after high temperatures threatened it with closure.

Flights over the Luchon-Superbagnères resort in the Pyrenees dropped around 50 tonnes of snow on the slopes below, as mercury levels rose above 10C last week.

Footage of the helicopter delivering snow to the resort shows the mountain range in the background looking strikingly bare for the time of year.

Workers were seen directing large piles of snow in nets, carried by helicopters, on to the slopes on 14 and 15 February.

The French department of Haute-Garonne came up with the "exceptional" emergency operation to make up for the lack of snow at the resort in southwestern France.

Helicopters were deployed for two hours to ensure beginners and ski schools were able to continue to use the mountain.

Local council leaders said the cost of the operation would be covered by the fact that businesses were able to stay open, and that up to 80 jobs were not lost - including lift operators, ski school teachers and restaurant owners.

Workers were seen delivering snow to the slopes
Workers were seen delivering snow to the slopes. Picture: Getty

Hervé Pounau, the director of the local department council, said: “It will cost us between €5,000 and €6,000, in the knowledge that over the long term we will get at least 10 times’ return on that investment.

“We’re not going to cover the entire ski station in snow, but without it we would have had to close a huge part of the ski domain, and it’s during the holidays that we have the most activity for beginners and the ski schools."

He admitted it was not “very ecological”, but added: “It’s really exceptional and we won’t be doing it again. This time we didn’t have a choice.”

The Luchon-Superbagnères relies on this period for roughly 60 per cent of its income, however exceptionally mild weather meant it had to close all but six of its 28 slopes.

A lack of snow on the slopes meant the resort was close to closure
A lack of snow on the slopes meant the resort was close to closure. Picture: Getty

French ecologists were angered by the move, with Bastien Ho, the secretary of Europe Écologie Les Verts party, saying the transfer operation was evidence of an "upside-down world."

“Instead of adapting to global warming we’re going to end up with a double problem: something that costs a lot of energy, that contributes heavily to global warming and that in addition is only for an elite group of people who can afford it. It is the world upside-down,” he told French television.

This is the first example of helicopters being used to transport snow in the Pyrenees, however similar operations have been implemented in the Alps.