As August cooks, news of hut closures on Mont Blanc and Elan’s efforts to green-up their energy consumption.
Dicey Conditions on Mont Blanc Prompt Hut Closures
Gravity happens. And although we think of gravity as a constant, it seems to “happen” more often and with more significant consequences in the mountains. This summer has been hot in many mountain ranges. Still, close calls and accidents have become the norm in the Alps, where humans and their infrastructure are close to glaciated, thawing, and actively sloughing terrain. There were shouts and warnings, pleas from those in the know to dissuade climbers/alpinists from venturing into unstable terrain on the Mont Blanc recently. Two refuges making for more accessible travel up the mountain’s flanks were closed in early August.
“Their stupidity forces me and forces me to show authority and decide to take an order closing the Tête Rousse refuges and the Goûter,” said Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint Gervais near Mont Blanc.
One popular trade route up Mont Blanc passes across a steep gully known for regular rock falls. With current heat waves, the danger posed to those crossing this slope appears to have increased. Closing the refuges was meant to deter easy access to this terrain as August heats up.
The mayor went so far as to claim a deposit of €15,000 to access the mountain through Saint Gervais would be required. The fee, he claimed, would cover the potential cost of rescue and, in the worst case, a funeral.
As of August 20, the refuges were reopened. The mayor’s sharp tongue remains, however. In the press release announcing the reopening, a translation from French to English quoted Peillex as stating, “[the trail] to the top of Mont Blanc via Saint-Gervais, known as the Goûter, is and will remain a mountaineering route, it will never be the flagship attraction of a large leisure park where the rocks that would fall would be made of polystyrene.”
Mont Blanc is not alone; some guide services this summer shuttered operations on the Matterhorn due to unstable conditions.
And speaking of polystyrene mountains, the “Americana” version of the Matterhorn, Disney’s replica of the iconic hill in the Alps, will be closed for refurbishments as of August 8. In Los Angeles, where the US Matterhorn looms, “the real peril is not snow or sleet!” claims a press release. “Stories abound of a growling creature known as the Abominable Snowman—who will do anything and everything to protect his home.”
Elan harnesses the Sun
In news related to changing climates, ski manufacturer Elan, a Slovenian-based company, continues its efforts to go green. According to a press release, the company, with the completion of a solar array at its headquarters, claims to be manufacturing skis “100 percent on green energy.” Elan, which sits on the sunny side of the Alps, can now fuel 12% of its energy needs from the solar facility, which came online in July.
The company also states it has made a concerted effort to “green” its supply chains. Elan says 99% of the raw materials used in manufacturing originate within the European Union.
Elan was recently awarded a Green Star certification for its sustainability efforts. All this is to say that the company has made some newsworthy moves to align its energy consumption with its stated values of sustainability. Twelve percent of a ski manufacturer’s energy use fueled by the all-mighty Sun is news, and it’s good news.
While most of the WildSnow backcountry skiing blog posts are best attributed to a single author, some work well as done by the group.