New Year skiers face bare Swedish slopes

It has been an unhappy Christmas for Sweden's skiing industry, with the unseasonally warm weather leading to closed pistes and disappointed skiers.

In Åre, considered Sweden’s top resort, only 41 of 62 pistes were open on Thursday morning. Snow on the slopes was 20 centimetres deep, less than usual for the time of year, and below the 30 centimetres considered necessary for good skiing conditions.

Further south, the situation was even worse. At the resort of Stöten in Sälen, Dalarna, there was only 15 centimetres of snow on the slopes – much of that generated by snow cannons. Of 28 pistes in Stöten, only one was open.

“Overall in Sälen we have about 9 slopes open, which is not so good,” said Caisa Reis, spokeswoman for resort operator Skistar.

“This is worse than usual for the time of year,” she added.

Skistar is contacting customers before they set off to Sweden’s snowless resorts to inform them of the situation.

“We want people to have the information, so they know before they arrive here,” Reis said.

Skistar is telling people who have booked trips for January or February that they still have a good chance of decent snow, but for people planning breaks over the New Year holiday things are looking gloomier. The company is encouraging anyone planning to arrive over the next few days to get in touch if they have not already been contacted.

Meanwhile, staff at Sweden’s resorts are doing their best to entertain skiers faced with green slopes.

“People who have a ski pass for Skistar in Sälen can use it in Trysil in Norway, 45 minutes from here,” said Reis.

“Otherwise, we’re organising ice skating, horse riding and after ski activities for kids and adults.

“We’re also planning New Year celebrations,” she said, but admitted that more serious skiers are likely to be disappointed.

The lack of the white stuff has also been a blow to seasonal workers. Many of those on casual contracts have been laid off due to the poor weather conditions.

The problems are not confined to Sweden. In the Alps, a number of resorts have closed pistes, with Gstaad only having 10 centimetres of snow cover.