Austrian Ski Resort Covering Slopes in Blankets to Prevent Melting During Summer

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glacier, melting, Switzerland, blanket
Gurschengletscher glacier, Switzerland. Credit: Reuters

One of Austria’s most popular glacial ski resorts just covered its glacier in protective fabric earlier than usual to prevent it from melting.

Stubai Glacier resort near Innsbruck, the capital of Tirol province has covered 6-acres of the glacier with strips of thick white fabric to reflect the sun’s heat. As global temperatures rise, it has become almost the norm for glacial areas to cover up to prevent melting. The Rhône Glacier in Switzerland has been covered every year since 2010 during the summer.

‘It reduces the melting by 50% to 70%.’

– David Volken, a Rhône glaciologist, told USA Today

Stubai, alps, snowfall
Huge piles of snow at Stubai. Credit: Stubai Glacier

Staff bulldoze huge piles of snow onto the glacier and cover with blankets stuffed with a heavy-duty fleece material to insulate the ice and reflect back sunlight. They are usually left on the glacier from spring until fall when the glacier is most vulnerable, although Stubai is hopeful of reopening this summer.

‘The blankets protect the underlying snow and ice from the sunlight. Another benefit is the thermal insulation they provide.’

– Matthias Huss, head of the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network

Stubai glacier
Stubai Glacier, Austria

Although they don’t totally stop the melting, these blankets are very useful in slowing down ice loss locally. However, only a small amount of the glacier can be covered at a time. This method will never be able to save our glaciers or to counteract the negative consequences of climate change, Huss added.

In Stubai, the season would normally run until early June, and officials are hoping they can preserve some of the good snow for when they reopen, hopefully in September.

Stubai Glacier ski resort.

The province of Tirol is home to Ischgl, a popular Austrian ski resort well-known for its party and après scene, and suspected of being a “breeding ground” for coronavirus, with thousands of cases being traced back to the area. The resort has been linked to cases in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, and other areas of Austria and over 2,500 have joined a class-action lawsuit against the area.

Austria became one of the first countries in Europe to loosen its lockdown. The country’s health minister said recently that when thousands of shops reopened three weeks ago, they did not see an increase in infections. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen on May 15th and Austria’s Kitzsteinhorn Glacier announced earlier this week they intend to begin their summer ski operation on May 29th.

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