French president Emmanuelle Macron was in Chamonix today to visit the rapidly retreating Mer de Glace glacier, upon which the (sometimes) world's longest lift-accessed ski run, the famous Vallée Blanche, descends.
Unfortunately the full 20km descent, with a potential vertical descent of around 2,700m down from the Aiguille du Midi lift station at 3,842m all the way back down to Chamonix at 1,100m altitude is rarely skiable in full. It has not been possible to ski down to Chamonix this winter to date, the warmest so far in French history.
"What we see with this glacier melting is irrefutable proof of global warming," Mr Macron said in Chamonix after visiting the Mer de Glace.
Most of the reported 80,000 skiers and boarders who make the descent each winter instead end their descent at Montenvers, at 1,800m, the point visited by President Macron.
It is a good spot to witness climate change first hand as 30 years ago there were just a couple of steps down to the glacier but since 1990 the glacier has lost over 100 metres of depth at this point and there now more than 430 steps to climb out.
For many skiers, this ascent, after several hours off-piste skiing, wearing ski boots and carrying gear, is now the toughest part of the Vallée Blanche.
President Macron announced that France will create a protected nature reserve around Mont Blanc by the end of the year, with rules about the number of people who can visit the mountain.
This follows a French government announcement yesterday, reported by the BBC, of a host of measures including an annual bonus of €200 for sharing a car or cycling on their commute. The French government will also stop buying single-use plastics and misters will use trains for non-emergency trips, and all ministerial cars will switch to electric or hybrid power - including an armoured hybrid vehicle for Mr Macron.
"Chamonix is becoming an Alpine laboratory for climate change due to the proximity and easy access to the glaciers. But 90% of the skiing in the Chamonix Valley is about 2000m, so we are a comparatively snow sure destination and more fortunate in this sense than a lot of the lower resorts. This January has been the warmest ever recorded so all things considered, snow cover here is actually very good – between 125cm on mid-slopes and 270cm on higher slopes with almost everywhere open," said a Chamonix spokesperson adding that there is a plan to create a new gondola down to the glacier about 2km further up as Montenvers becomes less viable, but that the details of this project are yet to be confirmed.
Rossignol proudly posted the image of Mr Macron today noting that he was dressed in their gear.