Photographs by Ciril Jazbec
Text by Denise Hruby
Alpine winters are dying. Since the 19th century, average temperatures in these mountains have risen by two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit—about twice the global average. Snow is arriving later in the season and melting sooner. The Alps as a whole have lost about a month of snow cover, according to scientists who analyzed data from more than 2,000 weather stations.
To save themselves, the people of the Alps are going to dramatic lengths. An estimated 100,000 snowmaking machines now power the Alpine ski industry, enough to blanket an area the size of New York City within hours. Desperate locals are swaddling the ice on a few of the Alps’ roughly 4,000 glaciers, to try to delay the rapid melt caused by global warming. In one visionary scheme, Swiss scientists hope to save a glacier by spraying a swath of it with human-made snow.
Some of these methods are ingenious and tantalizing; others are environmentally and economically questionable. All are driven by a profound apprehension: Without winter, what would our lives here be?