• Faced with the drought but also with the rise in the price of energy, the question of the use of machines such as snow factories may arise.

  • As for the ski areas, it is assured that the production and use of this artificial snow are “necessary but measured”.

  • The France Nature Environnement association denounces a “grotesque” method in the face of environmental issues.

The resort of Auron, in the Alpes-Maritimes, announced earlier this week the postponement of its opening date due to the lack of snow cover.

Its neighbor, Isola 2000, located a little higher in altitude, has decided to maintain the date of December 3, and to be "one of the first in France" to launch the season.

And to be able to ensure it, it will not fail to use its 430 guns which deploy artificial snow.

This is also what La Colmiane intends to do, as France Bleu Azur reports.

“Artificial snow is a reassuring and essential means of conditioning the season, develops Jean Christophe Desens, director of the Isola 2000 ski area. of the season.

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“Last year, without a cannon, there would have been neither Auron nor Isola 2000”

“These machines operate less than 200 hours per year, especially at the start of the season and then to compensate for lack of snow as a backup, assures the professional.

But are essential to define an opening of the station and to support more than 600 employees and the entire economy of the valley”.

And to produce this snow "which is more resistant to melting", it takes energy and money.

A cubic meter of artificial snow costs 2.5 euros.

For example, in Auron, 800,000 m3 were produced last year.

"In any case, we need this underlayer to hold the season, otherwise we could not guarantee uninterrupted skiing and maintain our activity, assures Frédéric Gil, general manager of the Nice Côte d'Azur resorts.

Even if the production has a cost, we put the means.

Last year, without a gun, there would have been neither Auron nor Isola 2000.”

A loss of 30 to 40% of the water by evaporation

In addition to the energy crisis, the climate crisis also threatens the production of artificial snow.

To project these crystals, it is first necessary to draw water, approximately 1,000 liters for 2 to 2.5 m3 of snow.

“Our artificial snow comes from our hill reservoirs, a structure for storing rainwater and runoff,” says Frédéric Gil.

They are full thanks to the storms of August.

And then, all of this water is returned to its natural environment when it melts.

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Arguments that Éric Feraille, president of France Nature Environnement of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes branch, completely refutes, who has studied the issue of artificial snow closely.

“The current method of production loses between 30 and 40% of water through evaporation and mechanical losses,” he explains.

This water will become unusable for other users and natural environments.

And what would come back into the soil, goes back when the land needs it the least, just like what is taken, is taken when it is not necessary" The president of the FNE Aura adds that "this ability to better hold the melting "restricts" the possibilities of heat of the grounds and supports their reheating ".

“Leave the mountain alone”

For him, “you have to leave the mountain alone”.

“It would suffice to open only when there is natural snow.

Instead of forcing an activity geared towards tourism, imagine a local activity that allows, like a gymnasium or a stadium, to have sports equipment and to enjoy it when the time is right. appropriate,” he suggests.

Before alerting: “When there are no more resources, and it will happen faster than you think, it will be too late.

We can already see the average duration of snow cover being reduced and the conditions for the production of artificial snow with them.

Soon, it will be necessary to make choices between using water for a tourist activity or for the population.

Let's stop digging holes now to put in water that will no longer exist.

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As for the managers of the stations, we ensure "anticipate and have a very fine management of resources" in particular thanks to "the latest grooming machines which make it possible to produce exactly what is necessary", recalls Jean Christophe Desens.

He points out: “Thanks to new, less energy-intensive technologies, we can save more than 10% in energy while being eco-responsible.

It is rooted in our culture at Isola 2000.”

Frédéric Gil defends himself: “We see global warming by working directly with natural elements.

The challenges impose themselves on us and we adapt.

Beyond our ability to produce snow, we insist on promoting the diversification of mountain activities in all seasons.

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