French winter sport events cancelled over 'lack of snow'

Several winter sport events in France have been cancelled, postponed or moved because abnormally warm temperatures have stripped mountain slopes of their snow covering, organisers have said.

Milder weather and rain since mid-December have melted the little snow already on France's ski slopes, forcing many resorts to close in regions that depend on their income.

Only those at the highest altitudes in the French Alps have managed to keep most ski runs open.

In the Alps, the Tignes resort has been forced to cancel the Andros Trophy, a car and motorbike race on ice, on January 13 and 14.

"The warm weather of recent weeks and the weather forecast for the coming days with no cold spell or fresh snow predicted for next week are not favourable to preparing the track" at 1,550 metres altitude, organisers have said.

In Contamines, further north along the Swiss border, the Telemark World Cup due to be held this month has been postponed to February.

In Chatillon-de-Michaille, a dog sled race called the Retordica due to be held this weekend has been cancelled due to a "lack of snow", the French federation of dog sledding has said.

In Megeve, organisers of another dog sledding competition -- the Grande Odyssee VVF -- said they would still hold the 13-day event to start on Saturday, but would have to move the route several kilometres (miles) away to a higher altitude.

In late December, the last stage of the French cross-country skiing championship had to be relocated from Meaudre to the snowier Arvieux, a more than 200-kilometre (120-mile) drive away by car.

In the Pyrenees too, a lack of snow cover has thwarted winter plans.

The Font-Romeu Freestyle Skiing World Cup, originally planned for January 12 to 14, has also been postponed.

In the Peyragudes resort in southwestern France on Thursday, cannons spewed artificial snowflakes onto small white patches on a vast brown slope.

The World Meterological Organization on Thursday reported record-breaking heat in several European countries on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

In the eastern French city of Besancon, temperatures hit a new all-time high of 18.6 degrees Celsius (65.4 degrees Fahrenheit) for a January 1, 1.8C above the previous record, dating back to January 1918, the UN body said.

The problem is not limited to France.

The Alpine skiing World Cup season has been heavily hit by cancellations with events in the Italian, Austrian and Swiss Alps all wiped out by unsuitable weather.

The women's World Cup slalom in Zagreb was cancelled on Thursday because of "high temperatures and wind".

Wednesday's race in the Croatian capital, as well as a men's World Cup race in another low-altitude resort at Garmisch, in the Bavarian Alps, were skied on deteriorating pistes, amid snowless mountains.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said the frequency of cold spells and frost days is expected to decrease with global warming.

Man-made climate change also means low-altitude ski resorts will increasingly have to rely on expensive snowmaking to survive, it has warned.

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