MISSION // INSULATE THE ALPS
THESE ARE tough times for Austrian skiers. Their stranglehold on the overall World Cup title was broken last year by the U.S. Ski Team's Bode Miller, and glaciologists estimate that within 100 years 90 percent of the Alps' roughly 4,600 small glaciers, which underlie some mountain resorts, will be gone. Enter Andrea Fischer, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck and leader of a project that's putting the melt under wrapsliterally. In 2004, with $435,000 in funding from the government and four ski areas, Fischer's team began covering sections of resorts in the Tyrolean Alps with a one-to-three-millimeter-thick white, fleecelike material. Their conclusion? It works, at least temporarily. On one test plot, the insulation preserved almost five feet of snow, a result that gives Austrian schussers some much-needed hope. "We cannot stop the melting," says Fischer, "but we can slow it down." If only they could do the same to Bode.