Friday, October 05, 2007

The magic of snow (but we may lose it if we don't do something)

It is becoming clearer by the day. Global warming is on and snow in ski resorts and snow covered mountain resorts are reporting rising temperature and decreasing snow.

Meili Snow Mountain is located near northwest Yunnan's border with Tibet and considered the highest mountain in Yunnan and one of China's - and the world's - most spectacular mountains.Meili Snow Mountain's Mingyong glacier has receded by 40 meters in the last 13 years, according to deputy director of Diqing Prefecture's Meteorological Bureau, Liu Jiaxun. He said that average temperature rose from 4.8 degrees Celsius to 5.2 degrees Celsius from 1990 to 2006. He predicted that Mount Meili will be have absolutely no snow within 80 years if current global warming rates persist.

A scientist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Ruby Leung, said even under the most optimistic scenario, reduction in Western mountain snow cover from the Sierra Nevada range that feeds California in the south to the snowcapped volcanic peaks of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest, will lead to increased fall and winter flooding, severe spring and summer drought that will create havoc with the West's agriculture, fisheries and hydropower industry. Leung also predicted that while there are currently snow in the mountains into April, in the middle of the century. snow will melt off much earlier than that. According to Leung, research have show that shows in the past 50 years coastal mountain ranges have already lost 60 percent of their snowpack.

I can state without hesitation that the best part of my memories are those of the time I spent in Grindelwald, a Swiss Alps skiing resort in winter. Snow is abundant there, and there is something magical about snow. It creates a feeling within me that is very hard to describe. But one thing is for sure, I will want to spend some time in a place like Grindelwald again. However, BBC News has published a report that some famous Swiss ski resorts, among them Wengen, Muerren, Grindelwald and Gstaad, are the first in the Alps to start planning for a future that is likely to contain less snow. That means I don't have much time left, as if I wait too long, many of the mountain resorts like Grindelwald will have very much less or even no snow then. A recent study from the University of Zurich says some lower-lying resorts in Switzerland are already experiencing unreliable snowfall. Many mountain and skiing resorts are talking about artificial snowmaking. I wonder if it will have the same magic as real snow.

The photo on the left is not Grindelwald, but Whistler, a place that reminds me of Grindelwald. Whistler is a Canadian resort town in British Columbia, Canada which has been voted among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines for the past 15 years (Wikipedia). According to Whistler accommodation, Whistler has been the number 1 rated ski resort in North America for the last 8 years in a row with average snowfall over 30 feet or 9 metres per year, plus the season lasts all the way from November through to August. That means only 2 months of snow-free season. Not only that, to me the cottage shown in the photo look pretty Swiss chalet like.

One thing is for sure, if I ever get the chance to visit Canada, the place I would like to head for first is Whistler, hoping to relive the magic of Grindelwald. If that ever happens, I will need Whistler lodging, for I have no one to squat with in Whistler. But that wouldn't be a bad proposition, for there are plenty of nice comfortable accommodation available in Whistler. An example is Aspens 2, a true ski-in ski-out lodge, with the ski slopes just a 20 seconds walk away.

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