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Will Italy’s ski season be ruined by the warm weather?

Unusually warm temperatures over Christmas and New Year have led to melting snow and ski resort closures around Europe. How will Italy’s slopes be affected this winter?

Will Italy's ski season be ruined by the warm weather?
Warm weather and rain has forced many ski resorts around Europe to close as 2023 begins. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

Many people with ski trips booked in the coming weeks are wondering whether they can go ahead following reports of unusually warm weather melting snow and forcing ski slopes to close around Europe.

In France, many lower-altitude resorts were only able to keep their doors open for a few weeks this season before temperatures rose too high for snow to remain deep enough for winter sports, while in Austria and Switzerland many resorts were forced to close over the Christmas break, or have opened summer trails instead.

In Italy, there were also some reports this week of slopes closing due to a lack of snow. But Italy has not so far experienced the same record high January temperatures as its Alpine neighbours to the north. 

Eight countries across the continent recorded their warmest January day ever on Wednesday, including France, Switzerland and Austria – however Italy posted no records, despite experiencing a long spell of unusually mild weather.

A skier rests at the top of the Col Margherita pass in Falcade, Venetian Alps. Some Italian ski resorts have struggled to remain open this winter with less snow on the ground than usual. (File photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP)

Italian resorts overall were less affected by the recent warm weather than many in France, Austria or Switzerland, with resorts in Italy’s Dolomites and those at higher altitudes reporting good snowfall since November.

“As Italian resorts largely avoided the Christmas rain showers, conditions are actually pretty good across the country, although the snow isn’t very deep,” reported the Snow Forecast weather website on Thursday.

Whether or not your winter holiday plans are likely to be affected by the warm weather depends on where in Italy you’re planning to go – and at what altitude.

Higher-altitude ski hotspots in northern Italy have plenty of snow at the moment and visitors were able to make the most of it over Christmas and new year.

“It would be better if it was colder, but there’s no lack of snow,” said Tomas, a Swedish skier visiting the Italian resort of Breuil-Cervinia, which at above 2,000 metres above sea level is one of Europe’s highest ski resorts.

In Courmayeur, on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, resorts were fully booked until after the January 6th holiday.

French visitor Olivier said conditions for skiing “had been pretty good all week” on Courmayeurs higher slopes, though some pistes at lower altitude had closed.

READ ALSO: Why your ski trip in Italy will be more expensive this winter

But for ski resorts in the centre of Italy, which are often frequented more by Italians than international visitors, trips were cancelled over the holidays after warm weather and rain melted snow and forced many ski slopes to shut.

In the Apennines, average temperatures this week of between 2-8 degrees were recorded at a thousand meters, which made it too warm even for the use of snow canon.

Ski slopes were closed over the holidays everywhere from Terminillo in Lazio to Abetone in Tuscany and Campo Imperatore in Abruzzo, where only the cable car is still operating.

Operators across resorts in the Appenines told Italian media they had suffered losses of tens of millions of euros so far and could only hope for better conditions between January and March.

READ ALSO: How climate change left Italy’s ski resorts fighting for survival

And for those still waiting to hit the slopes, the big question now is when the next snowfall will arrive.

The long spell of unusually warm temperatures is forecast to end in Italy by January 9th, after which colder and more wintry weather is expected to begin – though there are no firm predictions yet of snow in lower-lying areas.

While ski trips to Italy this winter may still be able to go ahead as planned, in the longer term things aren’t looking good for the industry with global heating set to radically change winter tourism.

“Winters are becoming warmer in Europe as a result of global temperatures increasing,” Freja Vamborg, climate scientist at the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, told Reuters.

The decline of Italy’s ski resorts has been underway for years, with some 300 resorts closing in the last three decades, primarily at lower altitudes and due to a lack of snow.

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STRIKES

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travellers in Italy will face disruption again this month amid a new round of transport strikes. Here's what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Calendar: The transport strikes to expect in Italy this February

Travel in Italy was disrupted by dozens of localised strikes in January, and this is set to continue into February as Italian unions announced a further round of demonstrations affecting rail and public transport services in many areas, as well as airline travel.

READ ALSO: Should you travel in Italy when there’s a strike on?

Here’s an overview of February’s main strikes, which are again mainly local or regional, but include a national public transport strike on February 17th and a nationwide walkout by airport ground staff on February 28th.

February 5th-6th: Trenitalia staff in the southern Calabria region will strike from 9pm on Sunday, February 5th to 9pm the following day. 

A list of guaranteed services in the region is available here.

February 9th: Staff from Lombardy’s Trenord will take part in a 22-hour strike – from 2am to 11.50pm – on Thursday, February 9th.

It’s currently unclear whether Trenord will operate minimum services on the day. See the company’s website for further information. 

February 12th: Air traffic control staff at Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport will take part in a 24-hour strike action on Sunday, February 12th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the walkout will affect air travel to and from the airport on the day.

Travellers at an Italian airport

A national strike from ground service staff may cause delays and queues at many Italian airports on Tuesday, February 28th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

February 12th-13th: Trenitalia staff in Emilia-Romagna will strike from 3.30am on Sunday, February 12th to 2.30am on Monday, February 13th.

A list of guaranteed rail services in the region is available here.

February 17th: Public transport staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Friday, February 17th. 

The strike was called in late January by Italian union USB to protest against precarious work contracts and privatisation attempts by the Italian state.

There currently aren’t any details as to what percentage of workers will take part in the action or how widespread the disruption is likely to be.

February 19th: Trenitalia staff in the Veneto region will strike from 9am to 5pm on Sunday, February 19th. 

Guaranteed services are available here.

On the same day, there will be no service between Milan’s Milano Centrale station and Paris’s Gare de Lyon due to a strike from staff at France’s national railway company SNCF.

READ ALSO: Trains and planes: Italy’s new international travel routes in 2023

Empty train platform in Codogno, Lombardy

Staff from Lombardy’s regional railway operator Trenord will strike for 22 hours on Thursday, February 9th. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

February 20th: Trenitalia personnel in Lombardy are expected to strike from 9am to 5pm on Monday, February 20th. 

Guaranteed services haven’t been made available yet. 

February 28th: Baggage handlers and other airport ground service staff will take part in a national 24-hour strike on Tuesday, February 28th. 

It isn’t yet clear how the strike will affect air travel during the day, though a similar demonstration caused significant delays and queues at some Italian airports in late January.

ENAV air traffic operators based in Calabria are also expected to strike on February 28th, with the walkout set to start at 1pm and end at 5pm.

You can keep up to date with the latest strike news from Italy HERE.

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