The Madrid ski resort at the heart of a political battle

LETTER FROM MADRID

Tourists who visit Madrid, its museums and bustling streets, often do not know it, but about fifty kilometers north of the Spanish capital and less than an hour by car, you ski. Or, rather, we were skiing.

The Puerto de Navacerrada resort, located at 1,857 meters above sea level in the magnificent Sierra de Guadarrama Natural Park, on the border between the regions of Madrid and Castile and León, has little to do with it. offer to experienced skiers. It has barely nine alpine ski slopes, two of which are initiation less than 100 meters long. Neither does it shine for its beauty, with its half-abandoned restaurants and hotels, its charmless buildings and this large track, rarely covered in snow, which faces the parking lot, crowded on weekends and holidays, where n ‘often only access early in the morning, as the traffic jams can be dense.

However, it retains sentimental value for many Madrilenians. It was there, often, that they had their first contact with snow. Here too, several skiers who have competed in the Olympic Games were initiated, such as those of the Fernandez Ochoa family (Francisco even won gold in the slalom in 1972 and his sister Bianca bronze in 1992).

Plus 2 ° C and a quarter of less snow in fifty years

From the top of the slopes, the view of the mountain range is breathtaking. Opened at the end of the 1940s, Spain’s second station reached its peak between the 1960s and 1980s, before falling into decline. Lack of investments. Lack of snow, too. However, when it is not covered with a white coat, that is to say the immense majority of the time, it is only an immense plague on the mountain.

In March, the Ministry of Ecological Transition, owner of the land through the national parks management body, therefore decided not to extend the concession of the three main tracks – the only ones equipped with snow cannons – which was coming to an end. April 3, after twenty-five years of operation by the company Estacion de Esqui-Puerto de Navacerrada.

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The arguments of the left-wing government are environmental: the impact of the resort, with the high tourist pressure it generates, is harmful for the natural park. Subject to intense automobile traffic and a victim of global warming, Navacerrada has seen the average temperature rise by nearly 2 ° C over the past fifty years. As for the amount of snow, it was reduced by nearly 25%. However, the station occupies 7.6 hectares of an area of ​​high ecological and forest value, which the ministry wants to restore to its natural state, and promote activities less damaging to the environment.

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The Madrid ski resort at the heart of a political battle

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