Not so long ago the mountains were full of skiers, but in our COVID-19 world, nature has been reclaiming the mountains.
In the last few weeks not only have marmottes (pictured above) been spotted emerging from their winter slumber, but also wolves and even a bear!
This is the normal time of year for the cute and cuddly marmottes to make an appearance. During winter, they slow down their heart rate to just a tenth of the normal rate and hibernate underground.
As ground temperatures increase they start to appear on the lower slopes and have been spotted in recent weeks in many resorts.
Less commonly seen in ski resorts are wolves, although they have been re-introduced with great success in many areas of the Alps.
Yet within a week of Les 3 Vallées closing to the public a wolf was seen loping across the pistes in Courchevel:
Nature abhors a vacuum: a wolf spotted this week on the slopes of Courchevel pic.twitter.com/uFjJDTVeJh
— Skipedia.co.uk (@skipedia) March 24, 2020
You can find out more about the reintroduction of wolves to ski resorts in Episode 28 of The Ski Podcast.
Bears, on the other hand (paw?), are very rarely sighted in the Alps. Three have been seen in the Pyrénées since the season ended, but these photos by Nathan Birrien, a freelance photographer who lives at Col d’Azet in the Hautes-Pyrénées, are truly special.
In an interview with France 3, Birrien explained how a friend had told him that he had seen a bear in the area. So, he packed his telephoto lens and went to take a look.
“It was probably one of the most beautiful moments of my life!” said Birrien. “When Nature reclaims what is hers, she gives us some moments of magic.”
The special pictures show a bear surfacing from its hibernation at 2800m – alone, majestic and a reminder to all of us of why we must protect our wonderful mountains.