Swiss ski resort Rüschegg Eywald falls victim to climate change

Rüschegg Eywald, 1500 metres above sea level, is still much loved. Many families, including mine, spent happy days there.

But this winter season, Rüschegg’s T-bar ski lift has not once been open.

At almost 2.5km (1.6 miles), it is the fourth longest ski lift in Switzerland and not for the faint-hearted.

But it has now fallen victim to climate change.

“We almost managed to open twice,” says Michael Kegel, who runs the ski lift company. “But although there was snow, the ground was too warm and wet underneath.”

Unfortunately for Rüschegg, this year is not a one-off. Last year the lift opened for only four days, and 2022 was not much better.

Just to break even requires at least 10 to 15 days per season. Rüschegg’s costly piste basher, which is used to groom the snow, sits unused and gathering dust in a shed. Bankruptcy looms.

It was once all so different. When the resort opened in 1969, people flocked to it. There were queues for the T-bar, and polite but firm struggles for parking spaces. A large hotel was built, with holiday chalets around it.

That’s when it got its nickname “Little Grindelwald”, a nod to Rüschegg’s bigger and better known neighbour not far away.

Warnings for years

Rüschegg is not alone. For at least a decade, lower lying ski resorts have known they will struggle for snow.

The famous null grad Grenze, the altitude at which the air temperature freezes, included in every Swiss weather forecast, has been rising along with global temperatures.

Where snow used to fall, it is now rain.

The end of an era

The highest, biggest, and wealthiest ski resorts, Zermatt or St Moritz, will survive for now, Professor Brönnimann believes. After all, they can turn on their snow cannon if it doesn’t fall from the skies.

But others, including even Rüschegg’s famous neighbour Grindelwald, will “have to adapt,” he says.

Even the prestigious ski races held every winter in Switzerland are at risk.

In recent years there have been doubts about whether the famous Lauberhorn race can go ahead. Warm weather over Christmas and New Year has threatened the January world cup races in Adelboden.

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