Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2009-10 Ski Season Kicks Off This Weekend Before Octosnow Fest!

Last autumn was a bumper snow period in the Alps with Skiinfo reporting heavy snow on Europe’s early-opening glacier ski slopes from the very start of October. This white abundance set up much of the continent for an epic 2008-9 snow season, helping many resorts ride the economic downturn.
Will history repeat itself in 2009? With the first resorts in Austria and France scheduled to open for Winter 2009-10 in the next few weeks, we don’t have long to wait to find out. Here’s the Skiinfo guide to which resorts are opening in Autumn 2009 and some of the season starting parties they’re laying on.

Austria
Solden’s glaciers will open on September 5th, conditions permitting. The official glacier opening party weekend is October 9 – 11 and the World Cup rolls in to town for its annual northern hemisphere, outdoor kick off from 23rd October. The Pitztal Glacier is always one of the first to open for its long winter season, which will continue to May 2010. This year the lifts, including a new six-seater chairlift, will start operating on 12th September. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun should also be open, with the centre offering freestyle workshops from 17th October for three weeks. Tux (picture attached) never really closes and by October is likely to have more terrain open than pretty well anywhere with a target 60km (Nearly 40 miles) of runs to enjoy, all easy to access with the area’s three Glacier Bus high capacity lifts. The resort stages its Octoberfest in September, unusually, on the 25th – 26th and then has a series of special season opening weekend festivals on 2nd – 34th and 9th – 11th October. Four more Austrian glaciers are likely to be opening in September and October – the Dachstein, Kaunertal, Molltal and Stubai.

Canada
Mt. Norquay looks likely to be the first resort in Canada to open for the country’s Winter Olympic ski season. The Alberta resort next to Banff town is planning to kick off with a Halloween party on October 31st and will then open at weekends only through to December 5th.

France
Tignes is the first and only French ski area open in September and October. The resort’s Grande Motte glacier re-opens four weeks after closing for summer skiing on September 25th. Les 2 Alpes opens for the October 24th – 25th for its new ‘Rock One Snowboard Tour’ which replaces the giant annual ‘Mondial’ ski and board test weekends after 19 years.

Italy
Italy’s Val Senales is the country’s main centre for autumn skiing, with special re-launch parties scheduled for mid-October when the resort re-opens its terrain park for the winter. Cervinia, linked to Zermatt, is open for skiing until next weekend (September 6), then opens again for October weekends (10/11 - 17/18 - 24/25), before re-opening full time for winter 2009-10 on Halloween.

Switzerland
Europe’s highest ski slopes at Zermatt are open all year, and it’s neighbour Saas Fee has a popular terrain park open all winter which will host European Cup events in late October, and World Cup races in Early November. Three other Swiss ski areas to look out for in October are Glacier 3000 above les Diabletets and Gstaad, Engelberg’s Titlis Glacier and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz – all open in October and the latter is offering special race training classes then too.

USA
Timberline in Oregon is expected to re-open it’s near year round operation as usual in late September after a few weeks annual closure. Then the annual battle for the ‘first to open in the US’ will kick off. Colorado resorts Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland, amongst the 10 highest in the world, are the prime contenders and in a good year will be snowmaking by late September and have a run or two open by mid-October.

Southern Hemisphere
Of course you can still find Spring skiing in Autumn, if you’re just prepared to travel to the southern hemisphere. Chile in particular has had a bumper snow year with some resorts clocking up more than 8 metres (26 feet) of snow by the end of August, setting the country up for good skiing through the warmer months of September and October. Australia and New Zealand have also had above average seasons and most resorts look likely to stay open well in to October.

Indoors
If you can’t make it to a glacier or the southern hemisphere, you may be close to one of the world’s indoor snow centres. There are now about 60 in more than 20 countries. The world’s largest, SnowWorld in Holland, opens its new terrain park in September, the world’s largest indoors. World cup Races are there too in October, even before they reach Solden’s glacier.