SUMMER 2020 RESORT OPENING DATES [MTB from June 27 to August 30] [SUMMER SKI from June 27]

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Preserving the glacier of Les 2 Alpes

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You might think that the glacier was made and exists all by itself, but that’s not quite the case. Sometimes it needs a little helping hand!

The Les 2 Alpes glacier


Unlike other glaciers, Les 2 Alpes’ wasn’t formed by avalanches, but by multiple layers of snow. Dome-shaped, its relatively gentle incline plays a part in its preservation: the sun’s rays are dispersed over a larger area than they would be on a steeper slope. What’s more, our glacier is also North-East facing, which is the perfect orientation!

Any friend to the glacier is a friend to us


1st friend: A decent refreeze: This process lets the snow and ice refreeze, after a period of warming up (and therefore thawing). Refreezing is absolutely essential for glacier conservation because it brings about snow evaporation, which allows the snow to stay cool.



2nd friend: A high reflection coefficient (or ‘albedo’): This is the quantity of sunlight reflected by a surface. The clearer the surface, the more the sun’s rays are reflected and the less heat is absorbed. White, clean snow therefore reflects the sun’s rays very well and absorbs very little warmth (unlike dirty snow that isn’t regularly cleaned and so is darker in colour).


Its enemies


Global warming of course, rain, as well as winds from the south, which, as well as displacing the snow, turn it from a solid to a liquid and cause 10 to 15cm to melt per day!

Analysis, an essential stage

Before putting preservation measures in place, analysis is carried out all year to track changes in the glacier and its snow. Today’s snow groomers are equipped with GPS and radars capable of measuring the snow in relation to a benchmark established at the beginning of the season. These very precise measurements are used in statistical calculations to define the impact of visitor numbers on the glacier, the level of melting, and to decide on measures such as artificial snow production and snow grooming.


Measures & projects

-Snow grooming: certainly the most important step in preserving the glacier, this involves compacting and cleaning the snow. Smooth, white snow bounces back the sun’s rays directly without absorbing their warmth, which causes it to melt slower than lumpy, dirty snow (yes, it’s the famous albedo we talked about earlier, well done to those keeping up! :) ). Snow grooming takes place around 6.30pm in the evening and at night when conditions are more favourable, namely before the snow mantle refreezes. This is to avoid chunks of ice forming on the surface while the work is being carried out. You should therefore give snow groomers a big hug when you see them out and about in the morning because they play a major role in preserving our beloved glacier (while we’re lounging around in our big, fluffy beds, or staying out partying until the early hours, remember ;) ).



-Barriers or snow traps: these are installed during the winter to store the natural snow, which is then spread all over the glacier.



-Snow ‘shelves’: these look like stairs made from snow, designed to counter “snow salutation”, which is when wind blows the snow around. These stepped terraces let the snow build up throughout the season, with new ‘shelves’ being created as and when required.



-Crevices are filled up with snow so that warmth isn’t able to enter deep into the glacier and cause it to melt from the inside.

-Tarpaulin is installed around ski lift pylons to preserve a layer of snow in order to protect the ice into which the pylons are driven. Maintaining that layer of snow is essential. Without it, the ice will be open to the elements and will melt in the sun, thus being no longer able to support the pylons.



-Snow cannons work at night (0°C) to create a layer of clean, white snow to cover the ice and limit warming. The artificial snow protects the layers of snow underneath it, largely because it is more resistant than natural snow because of how densely packed it is, with very little air, making it consistent and permeable to the cold (with around 0.5cm of melting per day). Artificial snow may be used to rebuild the glacier in future. As the glacier was the result of several years of natural snow layering, it would form much more quickly with more resistant snow. That’s why we plan to increase the installation of snow cannons on the slopes, supplied by the lakes that form naturally on the glacier because of melting snow.




If we’ve done our job properly you won’t have wasted your time and will have learnt some things about preserving our majestic Les 2 Alpes glacier! If you haven’t, then come and give us what for in the comments. Don’t hesitate to ask questions should you need anything explained! 


And for anyone asking themselves what all this looks like “in real life”, here are some videos filmed on our precious glacier this summer. Feast your eyes on them, they’re free! ;) 



 A huge thank you to Arnaud Guerrand, Operational Snow Manager at Deux Alpes Loisirs, for his invaluable assistance!


Pictures copyrights: Arnaud Guerrand, J-C Michel.