SARAJEVO, Bosnia (AP) — The new year’s festivities are over in Bosnia, and visitors to the country’s winter resorts are packing to go home. Spring-like temperatures have left little or no snow on the mountains, and it’s unclear when the next visitors will arrive.
The small Balkan country of 3.3 million is among several in Europe facing a ski season slump amid balmy climes in much of the continent as 2023 begins.
Record-high daily temperatures for this time of year have been beaten — at times obliterated — in recent days at hundreds of weather stations, in at least 10 countries: Bosnia, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland. At least five of those — Belgium, Czechia, Latvia, Poland and the Netherlands — set national record daily highs for a Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.
The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization has long warned about the ill-effects of climate change, and say the last eight years have been the eight hottest on record. The fallout this winter hasn’t been limited to snowless slopes, where mid-range altitudes have been affected most of all: Weather officials and scientists say flora and fauna are feeling the impact too.
Meteorologist Florian Imbery of Germany’s national weather service, DWD, said the temperature anomaly seen over the new year period could trigger unwanted plant growth — exposing crops to greater risk of frost damage later in the winter.
Biologist Livio Rey, spokesman for the Swiss Ornithological Institute, said many ducks that would normally migrate to Switzerland this time of year from Nordic countries don’t come anymore, like the tufted duck.
Up in countries like Finland, “they find food because the lakes aren’t freezing” — meaning they can continue to feast on mussels that they devour in warmer seasons, and would normally be inaccessible because of ice in wintertime, Rey said by phone.
Bosnia’s ski resorts, among others in smaller mountain ranges across Europe, have been feeling the pinch.
On Vlasic Mountain, near the central town of Zenica, tourists packed up for an early return home amid spring-like temperatures. Hotel owners say bookings are down, and with them both room prices and staffing levels. Tourism officials said vacationers are forced to seek alternatives to skiing, like hiking on grassy mountaintops — or riding ski lifts, just for the views.
“Right now, when we should be welcoming skiers on our mountain, we have no snow so there is no doubt that our business will falter, that is to be expected,” said Dino Korugic, manager of the Sunce hotel in Vlasic. “Our bookings correlate strongly with (the) weather forecast.”
Even man-made solutions aren’t holding up under what some call the “green winter”: Either it’s too warm to make artificial snow, or it melts soon after being spit out onto the slopes.
Srdjan Stevanovic, ski competitions consultant for the Jahorina ski resort near Sarajevo, said its managers started churning out artificial snow at the end of November to prepare for the mid-December opening of the ski season, but the warm weather has thwarted their efforts.
“Despite the most modern snowmaking system, installation of new ski-lifts and gondolas, God and nature proved stronger than us and made it impossible to make snow for our guests,” he said.
Keaten reported from Geneva. Vojislav Stjepanovic in Jahorina, Bosnia; Almir Alic in Vlasic, Bosnia; David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany; Frank Jordans in Berlin, Samuel Petrequin in Brussels and AP reporters across Europe contributed to this report.