Seeing is believing – disappearing glaciers – time to act!

CChamonix glacier receding
Spread the love

Alps Integral is looking to connect with the environmentally conscious organisations, businesses, activists within the ski industry and this is why.

Its not new information that the global glacial mass is shrinking, only the very ardent tin foil hat wearers deny that part of the global warming story, even if they deny its causes. The World Glacier Monitoring Service reports a downward trend since the 1800’s and with 23 straight years of negative ice mass balance – its clear the problem is getting rapidly worse.

2019 Warmest year on record

The European state of the climate 2019 report by the Climate Change Service – Copernicus; reports that Temperatures over Europe show that 2019 was the warmest on record a little warmer than the years 2014/15/18. In fact 11 of the 12 warmest years that Europe has experienced have been in the last 20 years

Key Messages from Copernicus
  • 2019 was the warmest year on record, very closely followed by 2014, 2015 and 2018.
  • 11 of the 12 warmest years in Europe have occurred since 2000.
  • The whole of Europe was warmer than average, except for a few small areas.
  • The largest annual temperature anomalies were in central and eastern Europe.
  • All seasons were warmer than average, with summer being the fourth warmest since at least 1979.
  • Annual mean minimum and maximum daily temperatures were warmer than average almost everywhere in Europe, with maximum temperatures generally showing larger anomalies than minimum temperatures.
Europe temperature rise
European surface air temperature anomaly for annual averages from 1979 to 2019, relative to the annual average for the 1981-2010 reference period. Data source: ERA5 Credit: Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)/ECMWF/KNMI.

Further reading and stats here

Bringing it home

I drove from Meribel to Chamonix last week as I have done many times over the past 20 years. Using the fixed perspective of the road and looking over my right shoulder I don’t need much more evidence and reading to see the rapid decline in Glacial mass. Its clear that Mont Blanc’s white tongue is receding at an alarming rate. It used to stretch down to the roadside and now it must be over 2KM away further up the mountain. This story is the same in all our beloved ski resorts – take any ski guide from Zermatt to Val D’Isère, from Courmeyuer to St Anton you will hear the same story of receding glaciers and a shorter winter season.

In our own back yard in the Meribel-Courchevel and Val Thorens ski area we have some 9Km2 of glacial coverage, according to national park authority ( and they report a mean average temperatures rise of over 2% with a loss of 61% since 1900. In 2018 glaciers in the Alps lost another 1.5 m in ice thickness and was the hottest summer on their records (until they report on 2019 presumably).

The Gébroulaz glacier featured below shows the loss over the past century. The Gébroulaz located ‘between’ Meribel and Val Thorens has lost an estimated 30% of volume in the last 10 years. The observable evidence of glacial loss makes a stark reality, its not just theoretical reading for us, we can see it on summer hikes!


Seeing is believing right?

Swiss photographer Walter Mittel Holzer took a biplane over the Mont Blanc glacial mass and photographed his birds eye view in 1919, then 100 years later researchers from Dundee Univeristy followed exactly the same flight path to produce a comparison image.
Kieran Baxter and Alice Watterson of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, used ‘monoplotting’ processes to triangulate the original camera view of Mittel Holzer photographs. They identified reference points from mountain tops and crevasses, and combined with advanced digital photography and GPS/Geo-spatial technologies, Baxter/Watterson were able to create the perfect overlay and comparison of that photo from 1919 – seeing is believing indeed

Chamonix glacier receding
Argentiere 1919-2019, courtesy of ‌Walter Mittelholzer, ETH-Bibliothek Zürich / Dr Kieran Baxter, University of Dundee


The Elephant on the piste

One question keeps surfacing with alpine dwellers. We enjoy our mountain and love the natural setting of where we live. We can also see at first hand the drastic climatic change that is occurring. Our livelihoods even depend on thriving snow seasons.  We are already seeing slightly shorter winters.

The Elephant on the piste is trumpeting loudly! The frivolous pursuit of Alpine thrills is not exactly vital to human existence, how can we accept 180 million ski visits to Europe each year, consuming energy and using resources for the pursuit of decadence? Can we even have a stance on global warming?


Action is louder than an elephant trumpeting

Well in short yes, we have to. Whether it be low carbon travel via Eurostar, buying bamboo core eco-friendly skis from a company like Lokomotov, or ski boots from The Boot lab who have removed plastic in their foot-beds and from their supply chain. We can offset our business environmental cost and our travel through carbon offsetting with One Tree at a time, we can buy recycled ski clothing at Who Ski or even rent it at Ski-Chic

And for inspiration and information listen to Matt Barr’s podcasts looking sideways type 2, they are excellent interviews of action sports leaders and activists. Or read up on what is what from a scientific perspective at Mountain Wilderness.  You could affiliate your business or advocate for an environmental organisation like POW or just watch a 45 second video which shows you everything you need to know (by Montagne Verte Morzine)!


Amongst all these bright lights Patagonia is clearly the shining beacon for all of us, tirelessly campaigning, donating and improving and out and out activism for a better future for all of us. Potentially a model for all business to strive to. Their slogan “we’re in business to save our home planet” says it all.

Yes there is something we can do on an individual level, social level and on a business level.

As Confucius once (didn’t) say “Every thousand mile journey starts with one step”


Our Mission

We want to leave this planet better than we found it. We are currently formulating our environmental mission statement with actionable and accountable measures we can implement now and in the near future.

Our mission centres on what we can do within our organisation, focusing on the day to day and reducing our environmental impact with policies on travel, office management, energy use, waste disposal and recycling. That goes without saying.

More importantly though, we feel we are in a unique position to create change within the business community. We are principally a B2B agency so our actions will not necessarily take the form of direct engagement with holidaymakers but with our dealings with brands, with our dealings with venues, towns and tourist offices. Our aim is to connect the dots between environmental organisations (some of them mentioned above) and ski resort stakeholders. We will use our local influence to help others make the change we all desire.

As a business intermediacy service we believe we can achieve change through bringing environmental issues up the agenda in operational planning, show that environmental business activity in the alps makes good economic sense and amplify the community of activists so that the message is loud and clear. Soon it will be unacceptable to ignore climate policy for all Alpine businesses and brands.

If you would like to be part of our mission story please get in touch now while the ink is still fresh, if you have an organisation, product or service that is could have been mentioned in this article then get in touch.

To understand more about Alps Integral read here for what we offer  

Thank you for taking the time to read this article here are some useful links.

Links, cool stuff to read, where to join and buy from – eco friendly ski makers – 3 Valley based ski resort sustainability advocates Patagonia – where clothing supplier intersects with activism – Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland (Twitter: @glamos_ch) – POW climate change organisation for adventure sports – EU commission funded data on climate change – Matt Barrs excellent and thoughtful podcast – Protect our Winters activism for action sports – well established and well researched source of info – Ski Journalist Patrick Thorn’s – Activism making great inroads in Morzine

Spread the love