A tarpaulin to slow down the melting of the Argentière glacier

 
 

It seems that glaciers can also become dehydrated. In the Mont Blanc region (as in the Vanoise), the winter precipitation that feeds the glaciers was down by 50% this year. And since this glacial melting has been going on now for 30 years, alpine sports enthusiasts need to adapt themselves to these new snow conditions.

In Chamonix, the Compagnie du Mont Blanc (CMB) have received the go-ahead of the commune and the prefecture to install this summer an enourmous geotextile tarpaulin at the "Col du Grands Montets". It will cover 750m² of the glacier at the point where the cable car arrives, to protect the ice from the sun's rays.

According to the Laboratory of Glaciology in Grenoble, the average thickness of the Argentière glacier has decreased by 60 cm per year for the last 30 years, and in 2009 the average thickness decreased by a massive 2.65m. This thinning poses a problem for skiers trying to access the area, which in winter becomes the "Point de Vue" piste.

The idea of a summer ice cover was thought up by the pisteurs as they noted the record lack of snow this last winter season. "The glacier collapses and becomes increasingly steep and open. This year we spent the season pushing snow into the bergschrund to fill it up" said one of the pisteurs.

6 years ago, the Swiss ski resort of Andermatt were pioneers of this idea of preserving the ski area. Environmentalists have nick-named it a "cache-misère", in other words a cover to hide the state of the glacier underneath. In France, the Les Arcs ski-station have already used this method last year.

Le Dauphiné