Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Huge Snowfalls In North America, Warm But Still Great In The Alps

It has been the snowiest week of winter 2011-12 in much of North America with resorts reporting up to 90cm/three feet of snow in 48 hours or as much as 170cm (nearly six feet) over the full week. There’s been snow right across the continent with up to 1.2m (four feet) reported in New England on the eastern side.
In contrast the Alps have seen temperatures rise up to 30 degrees on a few weeks ago and conditions are now reported to be mostly ‘Springlike’ with little fresh snow in the past week. In Scotland conditions have deteriorated badly with little snow left due to exceptionally warm February weather there, peaking at less than one degree lower than the all time high temperature.The avalanche risk is quite high at many resorts on both sides of the Atlantic either because of the large volumes of snow in places in north America or warm temperatures making the snowpack unstable at places in the Alps. So everyone is advised to fully heed warnings.
Resorts in Austria had some of the best snowfalls in the Alps at the end of last week. Most resorts received 10 – 30cm of fresh snow but the Freesports Arena Krippenstein reported 60cm (two feet) and Fieberbrunn 40cm. Big resorts like Zillertal and Hohentauern got 30cm while 15cm (6 inches) were measured in Sölden, Stubaital and Flachau. The top snow depth can now be found in Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald (495cm), St Anton (465cm) and Kleinwalsertal (460cm).
The avalanche risk is high (level 4) in Mayrhofen as the temperatures are getting milder (around 0-5+ degrees in Arlberg, 2000m) and not much new snow is expected for the next few days although later in the week there may be fresh snow at altitudes above 2000m.
In France warm weather has moved in to the Alps, impacting the huge snow pack that built up over the past three months. "In recent days, temperatures have been unseasonably mild for the time of year - up to 10/12°C in the early afternoon ... so it feels like in April", says Stéphane Giraud of Skiinfo.FR / Mountain News Corporation. The snow depth recorded by ski resorts remain high (still more than four metres/13 feet) at Chamonix, 350cm (nearly 12 feet) at Alpe d'Huez and 345cm (11.5 feet) at Flaine). "However, in a week, conditions have greatly changed: after the cold and fresh snow in recent weeks, the current holidaymaker, are now skiing on heavier/wetter snow", adds Stéphane. "The essential accessory of the week is sunscreen". This spring-like weather should continue until Friday, then the sky will have cloud cover from Saturday and it should then, perhaps, snow at high altitudes (above 1800/2000m) provided that the temperatures drop dramatically (otherwise there is a danger of rain…)
There’s been little fresh snow in Italy in the past week with some of the country’s deepest snowpack (3m/10 feet) in the south of the country near Rome at ski areas like Campo Imperatore. However most of the major resorts across the north of the country still have healthy snow depths on upper slopes of 90-150cm (3-5 feet).
Switzerland has had a quieter week for snowfall although conditions are still reported to be good. "Gstaad is experiencing an exceptional winter. Magnificent snow also transforms the landscape into a wonderland in March. The slope conditions could hardly be any better", said Kerstin Sonnekalb, the resort’s Public Relations Manager. Resorts like Arosa, Laax and Disentis 3000 reported 10cm (4 inches) in total for the last seven days. Ebenalp/Appenzellerland can be happy about 40cm (16 inches) of fresh snow, the most of all Swiss resorts. Snow depth in the ski resorts are still perfect even with ‘Spring like temperatures” here too. The deepest snow can be found in Engelberg (541cm), Laax (385cm), Champex-Lac (380cm) and Crans Montana (365cm). Pyrenees and Rest of Spain
After several very snowy weeks there’s been little new snow in the Pyrenees in the past week, but most resorts in Spain and Andorra remain in good shape because of those earlier accumulations.
Scandinavian ski areas have seen some of the best snowfalls in Europe over the past week. Snowy Jolster in Norway has added another 70cm to its huge 2011-12 snowfall tally and coastal Voss has reported the same amount of new snow.
It’s been another week to forget for Scottish skiing with what may have been the warmest ever February day in the country this week. The double digit temperatures have wiped out the remaining snow at Glenshee and The Lecht and there’s only limited terrain open on upper runs at Cairngorm, Nevis range and Glencoe with warm temperatures continuing. To rub salt in the wounds strong winds have stopped those three centres from offering snow sports on most days in the past week in any case.
There have been huge snowfalls in Canada once again with British Columbia’s great snowfall season already receiving a further boost with several resorts reporting up to three feet (90cm,) of fresh snow falling over a 48 hour period in the past few days. "More Powder Crazed than a kid in a Krispy Kreme store. The Griz has delivered- over 3 feet in 48hrs of Dry, Light Pow to Fernie Alpine Resort, heart of the Powder Highway!", said an excited ‘Powder Matt’ Mosteller, the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for resort owners the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. A little further west Revelstoke Mountain Resort received 82cm of snow this past week with the peak of the storm hitting just in time for Saturday skiers and delivering a whopping 34cm (14 inches) in just 24h hours. "Incredible powder conditions were enjoyed all weekend long as the storm finally tailed-off on Sunday, opening the skies to some beautiful sunshine for the past two days. More snow is in the forecast for this week with the heaviest portion predicted just in time for our weekend visitors again!", said Sarah Windsor from the resort. For a change though there has been almost as much snow in Eastern Canada as in the west. Mont Sutton has had the most in Quebec in the past 7 days with 82cm (nearly three feet). Big falls have been reported too by Le Massif (70cm) and most other resorts in the region have had at least a foot (30cm) over the same period.
The past week has been the snowiest of winter 2011-12 across the USA with resort’s from Alaska to new Hampshire reporting huge snowfalls – most several feet, the biggest as much as 171cm (a few inches short of six feet) at Alyeska in Alaska. It’s been particularly good news, albeit later in the season than they might have liked, for areas that had been catching up from below-average snowfall earlier in the winter like California and New England. In New England huge snowfalls have included 120cm (four feet) for Stowe including 60cm (two feet) in 48 hours, and 136cm (4.5 feet) at Sugarbush. "For Stowe skiers and riders, this is the storm everyone has been waiting for!", summarised a statement from the resort. There have been big falls reported in all the major ski regions including Colorado and Utah with Jackson Hole in Wyoming, which has been having a good snowfall season already, adding another 90cm/3 feet plus of snow in the past seven days.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Freeride World Tour: Norwegian Dennis Risvoll Took Victory in Røldal

The fourth stage of the Swatch Freeride World Tour went off in Røldal, Norway today. The strong field of riders showed high-quality runs with technical skiing as well as big airs. The big surprise of the day came from Norwegian wild card Dennis Risvoll throwing two back flips and a lot of amplitude in his run. Austrian Flo Orley and French Margot Rozies were on top of their game and won the snowboard categories. Christine Hargin from Sweden knows the Scandinavian mountains and won women’s ski category with a powerful run.
The competition face was playful with a wide range of cliffs and wind lips to drop. The snow on top of the competition face was packed and icy but getting much better further down.

Ski Men: It was Dennis Risvoll's creative line with no more than two back flips that got the best score of today. The local Norwegian won the Røldal Freeride Challenge last year and has gotten the taste for gold. Last year's world champion Aurélien Ducroz, from France, is back in the game, contributing with a beautiful run with a long flight and a huge back flip. Season wild card Sam Smoothy (NZL), who won in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, keeps on charging and took third with high speed in a powerful run. With his third place today he still sits in first place on the overall ranking.
"I didn’t think my run was that good as I wanted to do a double back flip. So I am stoked to win. We have a lot of great skiers in Norway, so I didn't feel pressure standing on top next to the big guys on the world tour. Conditions in the face were good, despite flat light during my run. I'm now hoping to get more wild cards and competing in more events", said Risvoll.

Snowboard Men: In the men's snowboard division Flo Orley (AUT) won with a solid run combining a lot of features. Emilien Badoux (SUI), who won the Freeride World Qualifier in Røldal in 2010, got the second best score of the day with multiple drops and stable landings. Christian Schnabel (AUT) didn't hesitate and went fast, which put him in third place. Jonathan “Douds” Charlet (FRA) is still leading the overall ranking after a fourth place today.
"Incredibly happy! This has been a tough season for me but with constant improvement race after race, I now have a goal to go and compete in Verbier where I have been competing the last 12 consecutive years. So, I don't want to miss it this year", said Flo Orley .

Ski Women: The ladies seemed to enjoy the Norwegian mountains and all eight female skiers charged hard and stable, making it difficult for the judges. Christine Hargin (SWE) has been to Røldal before and skied faster and stronger than her competition. Lorraine Huber (AUT) took second after hitting several cliffs and riding fluid. Her fellow country member Eva Walkner skied fast in the icy top part, took good air and earned third. Angel Collinson (USA) still sits in top position on the overall ranking despite a 8th place today.
"It was a really long day and I was very nervous on top, waiting. I'm happy because I did what I expected to do", said Hargin.

Snowboard Women: Margot Rozies (FRA) didn't get the best light but that did not seem to stop her. She rode fast, fluid and took great air on the last two cliffs. Second place went to Shannan Yates (USA), who did a creative line in the mid section and stomped her cliffs. Maria de Bari (USA) continues taking podiums and came third, meaning she still has top position on the overall ranking.
Rozies was really happy with her ride: "I was super stressed on top and when I started I was lost on the top ridge, so I climbed back up and started again. This victory gives me a great boost for the overall ranking and the title is now my goal".

Two more stages are left for the Freeride World Tour 2012 before the four World Champions will be crowned in Verbier end of March. Next stop goes to Fieberbrunn in Austria. Contest day is scheduled for 10 March.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Swatch Freeride World Tour (Røldal, Norway): The Die is Cast After Face Inspection

Pressure is on! D -1 of competition the riders were up on the mountain to inspect the face for tomorrow. Through binoculars they scoped their lines on "Couloir 1 & 2", a 700 metre wide face with a vertical drop of 300 metres with plenty of cliffs (some really big) and a steepness of 35-55 degrees.
Even if it dumped the last few days the snow quality of the face is pretty uncertain. Today it has been windy and yesterday it rained. Will we see pow, crust, ice or wind packed tomorrow or probably a bit of everything?
Freeride World Tour checked in with some of the riders during inspection:
Jess McMillan (USA) - bib nr 1
"I’m psyched to be bib number one! Lucky number! I prefer to be out early to enjoy watching the others. I also like first bib because as you don’t see others go down your vision stays clean and it doesn’t make you hesitate and want to change line".
Reine Barkered (SWE) – bib nr 15 - first bib men
"It’s the first time in my 80+ competition career that I got bib number one! I am very excited. It’s a really fun face, a bit short but with a lot of features from top to bottom. We have competed on it for the RFC (Roldal Freeride Challenge) in April but the snow is a whole different story now. In April it is usually easy spring snow conditions, now I am a bit worried for difficult and rotten snow".
Julien Lopez (FRA) – bib nr 25:
"Jim Jack is in my heart and will be tomorrow at the start line. My run will be a tribute to him. I’m happy with my bib nr 25, a pretty early number, I’m the sixth skier (men) to go. There is less pressure when you don’t stand around for too long before the start. The face has big drops and if you want to win here you need to go big. It’s all or nothing. But the big unknown is the quality of the snow.".
Sam Smoothy (NZL) – bib nr 29 (ranked nr 1 ski)
"The pressure is off for me here. Everything will be judged in Verbier. So I’ll just try and stay on my feet, go fast and do some big jumps…"
Aurélien Ducroz (FRA) – bib nr 38
"I really don’t care what bib number I have. It has been proven in the past that you can win with any bib, early or late in the start field. The face is a beautiful, aesthetic face with icefalls in it but there is not that big variation. I am afraid everyone will do the same big cliff and the winner will come down to who jumps it highest and cleanest. I think there will be a lot of surprises in the snow. It seems very changing even with patches of ice in there".
Douds Charlet (FRA) – bib nr 22 (ranked nr 2 snb – and dad in 2 months!!)
"Number 22 is a good bib. I think the snow will be crusty, which means it will be hard to stomp the big jumps. I will really pay attention to the snow. There are some aesthetic icefalls in the face and as I love ice climbing I’m going to jump them. But my meniscus hurts so I’m a bit concerned".
Torgrim Vole (NOR) – bib nr 33
"They just dynamited the face and it did not move. The snow will probably be pretty compact, which is good as then it will stay the same from first to last rider. I got the same bib as when I won in -09, 33 is my lucky number! But the face looks totally different from when we usually compete here in the spring, a lot more snow! I am not really sure yet on my line choice, but might be similar to my run 2009. I think we will see fluid runs with one or two big jumps straight in the fall line. It’s cool to be on home turf!".
David Underland (NOR) – bib nr 18 - local wildcard snb
"I am stoked to have an early number. I did the comp several times in spring snow and the cliffs where way blacker then than now!".
Before face inspection, the FWT athletes and organisers gathered for an emotional, unofficial "open mike" ceremony in tribute to Freeskiing World Tour’s head judge Jim Jack.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Swatch Freeride World Tour: Next Stop Røldal, Norway

After three contested stages out of six, the Swatch Freeride World Tour will host its next competition in Røldal, a hidden pearl of southwest Norway. With the four categories men and women, ski and snowboard, the world’s best freeride athletes are scheduled to compete Saturday 25 February. Looking at the overall ranking, the most noticeable fact is the top five on the ski men’s ranking being season wild cards or newcomers. As a young and constantly evolving sport, it is not surprising that several new athletes on the tour have been showing some consistent, top-level freeriding. Established athletes will need to step up their game to defend their coveted spots.
The Swatch Freeride World Tour in Røldal is a new stage on the tour but has been an existing competition since 2001, as the Røldal Freeride Challenge. A Freeride World Tour Qualifier (FWQ) since 2008, Röldal still hosts a FWQ event in end of April. With the interesting terrain and great organisation it has been a popular competition in Scandinavia, attracting the very best. Top international riders like Kaj Zackrisson (SWE), Ane Enderud (NOR), Pia Widmesser (GER), Torgrim Vole (NOR), Emilien Badoux (SUI), Erik Sunnerheim (SWE) and Jaclyn Paaso (USA) have all taken victory in previous editions.
Swiss snowboarder Emilien Badoux, currently 5 th on the FWT ranking, won Røldal in 2010: "I am really happy to go back to Røldal for a FWT stage, meaning the level will be even higher! I don’t know what face we will ride and what it will be like this time of the year but the terrain back there is really playful and I think we will see some freestyle moves and a lot of air".
Aurélien Ducroz (FRA), 2011 Freeride World Champion ski, had a tough start of the season but is confident after his fourth place in Courmayeur: "It’s cool to see so many new guys pushing the sport and shaking us around a bit. But I’ve been preparing for the next competition. Everything feels better since Courmayeur and I feel good on my skis. It took some time to get started but I’m getting there. I don’t know anything about Røldal but I’m really happy as I’ve never skied in Norway! It’s great to have new stages on the tour and Scandinavia means big freeriding countries. I don’t think the guys who previously competed here are favoured, it’s our job to inspect new faces and ride them".


More Big Snowfalls in the Alps as Western North America Gets Dumped On

Snow conditions are excellent almost everywhere now with most of the world’s major ski regions either enjoying sunny periods after huge snowfalls; or enjoying fresh new huge snowfalls, or both.
Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the Pyrenees, Scandinavia and Western North America have all been reporting big accumulations of up to 1.2m (four feet) in the past seven days and the first season-extension announcements are starting to come in.
The only downside to this is that the avalanche danger is high to very high off piste in many areas, with tragedies occurring in America and the Alps this week.
Austrian ski resorts got a lot of fresh snow during the latter half of last week. Four resorts got more than a metre of snow including two over 1.2m (four feet) - Kleinwalsertal (125cm) and Diedamskopf (120cm). Kanzelwand/Fellhorn with 105cm and Bichlbach (100cm) with the other two. More than 100 other ski areas reported falls of 20 - 85cm and so by the weekend the avalanche risk was very high (grade 4 of 5). This has eased a little over the past few days but in some parts the danger is still high. "After the heavy snow falls the weather is perfect at the beginning of the week and ski conditions could not be better", says Skiinfo’s Gerda Moritz. Two resorts just cracked the five-metre snow depth, St Anton now has 515cm (over 17 feet) of snow at the top of the mountain and the Dachstein Glacier reports 510cm (17 feet). Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald is a couple of inches behind on 495cm.
In France average snow depths in the northern Alps are running at 242cm (eight feet) at the top of the slopes and 114cm (just under four feet) at the bottom of the ski areas. Although there has not been a huge amount of fresh snow in the region over the past week, conditions are mostly excellent thanks to the huge accumulations in December and January building up big bases. "After an early February that was cold and snowy, conditions are exceptional", says Skiinfo France’s Stéphane Giraud. With 430cm of snow at the top of the slopes, Chamonix is the snowiest, followed by the Grand Massif ski area (Flaine, Morillon, Samoens and Les Carroz) where there is 375cm. Elsewhere in France the average snow depths are 178cm at the top of the slopes of the Pyrenees and 112cm at the top of the slopes of the Southern Alps.
Italy has seen some of the best snow in Europe over the past week with some smaller areas reporting up to 90cm (three feet) of snow in the past week. The Dolomites received heavy snow earlier this week with most areas reporting between 20 and 40cm in 24 hours up to Monday morning.
Ski resorts in Switzerland had lots more snow in the last week. The conditions are perfect at the moment and there are more sunny days expected this week. The most snow fall reported for the entire continents of Europe and north America in the past seven days – 140cm – was reported by Ebenalp/Appenzellerland. It was one of nearly 50 Swiss resorts reported new snow of 50 – 100cm. Engelberg still has the greatest snow depth in Europe with 541cm.
Conditions are good in most of the ski resorts in the Pyrenees after more snow fell in the past week. Cauterets in France has the deepest snow in the region with 3.1m (10.3 feet) but it is closely followed by Baqueira-Beret (picture attached) in Spain with 3 metres. Vallnord has the deepest snow in Andorra with 2.2m (7.3 feet).
There’s been more heavy snow in Scandinavia this week, particularly in Norway where Jolster reported over 1.2m (four feet) more snow and Roldal moved up to a 4.3m snow base.
Conditions have further deteriorated in Scotland over the past seven days with the Lecht remaining completely closed with little cover remaining and the other four centres having only limited snow left. Cairngorm and Nevis range have the most on upper slopes. With storm force winds closing centres on Monday and temperatures now in double figures in the valleys it’s not looking good at the moment.
Canada’s west has seen more healthy snowfall enabling mount Washington to be possibly the first in the world to announce already that it’s extending its 2011-12 ski season, by a week so far to April 22nd. At Revelstoke in BC they’re reporting, "Incredible snowfall over the Family Day/President’s Day weekend shich has set the stage for fantastic skiing and riding conditions with a deep base of 226cm!". More than 40cm of snow fell on the resort over the weekend creating daily powder conditions. The forecast for this week predicts more snow on the way, with heavy snowfall anticipated for the weekend. Revelstoke has received 19cm of snow in the last 48hrs, 51cm in the last 7 days, with a total of 764cm (25.5 feet) of snowfall to date this season!
There’s deep snow in Colorado (USA) this week after some of the biggest falls in the state’s history brought snow cover right back on target. One of the biggest accumulations has been at Steamboat, which reported 40 inches (a metre) in the past 48 hours and is expecting more snow for four out of the next five days. Other resorts are reporting less epic, but still significant snowfalls. For example Vail has had a foot (30cm) of new snow in the past few days and is now fully open. Elsewhere in the west the snow is still falling heavily in Washington State, Alaska and Wyoming. Jackson Hole reported another foot (30cm) today and Mt Baker is one of four resorts in the world (and the only one in North America) with a snowbase of more than five metres (nearly 17 feet). California is still lagging behind its normal deep snow but is in increasingly good shape. In North lake Tahoe for example Northstar is now 84% open while Heavenly at the south of the Lake has had more than a foot of snow in the past week. Mammoth Mountain, further south still, is 100% open.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vail Resorts To Acquire Kirkwood Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe

Vail Resorts today announced that it has enteredinto an agreement to acquire Kirkwood Mountain Resort at Lake Tahoe, Calif., recognized by skiers andsnowboarders as offering some of the best high alpine advanced terrain in North America. Vail Resorts ispurchasing the ski resort as well as the undeveloped sites at the center of the base area which are zonedfor residential and commercial development for a purchase price of approximately $18.0 million. The sellerwill retain a participation interest in the base area parcels and will continue to own the remainder of the realestate development sites. Following the acquisition, Vail Resorts will now operate three world-classmountain resorts in the Lake Tahoe region which between them offer the entire breadth of the skiing andriding experience, including Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Northstar California on thenorth shore and Kirkwood Mountain Resort.Vail Resorts also announced that, effective immediately, Heavenly and Northstar pass holders will haveaccess to Kirkwood and Kirkwood pass holders will be able to ski and ride Heavenly and Northstar.
"We are thrilled to welcome Kirkwood into our family as our seventh world-class mountain resort. Kirkwoodoffers some of the most extraordinary ski terrain found anywhere in North America with high alpine trails andthe most annual average snowfall in Lake Tahoe. Kirkwood represents skiing and riding at its purest,something we intend to retain and protect long into the future", said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executiveofficer of Vail Resorts. “When combined with Heavenly and Northstar, we will be able to offer our guests andpass holders unparalleled value with the very best that Lake Tahoe has to offer. We are excited to be ableto offer Kirkwood to our pass holders right away – it’s like opening day to a whole new season”. As of today, Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass holders will have unrestricted access to ski and ride Kirkwood.Tahoe Value Pass holders can ski and ride there every day except on Saturdays. Kirkwood pass holderswith the following passes will have access to Heavenly and Northstar: Premium Pass holders and 7 WoodPass holders will have unlimited, unrestricted access to Heavenly and Northstar, while 6 Wood Pass holderswill have access to Heavenly and Northstar six days a week, Sunday-Friday, with no holiday restrictions. 5Wood Pass holders will have access to Heavenly and Northstar five days a week, Monday-Friday. TheCompany also announced that it intends to retain a Kirkwood-only season pass and Kirkwood-only daily lifttickets, priced comparably to what’s offered today.
Located about 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort offers pure high alpineskiing and riding at its best. The ski resort’s unique location, completely surrounded by National Forest atop the Sierra Crest combined with elevations ranging 7,800 to 9,800 feet, create a geographical predispositionto receive the lightest, driest and most plentiful snow in the Tahoe region with an average of 472 inchesannually. Kirkwood offers 2,000 feet of vertical drop and more than 2,300 acres of terrain from groomedbeginner runs to hair-raising cornices, cliffs and the most high-angle grooming around. The resort offers fourterrain parks, from beginner to advanced, as well as a Boarder X course.Vail Resorts expects to close on the acquisition of Kirkwood Mountain Resort within the next month. Furtherterms of the agreement were not disclosed. Closing is subject to certain conditions, including transfer of theU.S. Forest Service Permit.
Vail Resorts is the leading mountain resort operator in the United States. Vail Resorts operate the mountain resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, and Heavenly, Northstar and now Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada, and the GrandTeton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Company's subsidiary, RockResorts, a luxury resorthotel company, manages casually elegant properties. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estateplanning, development and construction subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly heldcompany traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Resorts and Digital Communications

As published in Ski Area Management Magazine (January, 2012)
By Peter Duchessi and Rick Kahl



In fall 2011, executives and managers from almost 100 ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada responded to a survey about their use of several important technologies/services, including social media networks, microblogging services, and resort apps, which their ski resorts employ for promotional and communications purposes. The survey was conducted by GenAura and SAM Magazine, to provide insight into current practices and explore the sales-generating potential for these digital tools.


As resorts expand the range of their digital communications strategies, they are finding success in a growing number of media.
Facebook and Twitter have quickly joined resort websites as major means of digital communications. But other, newer technologies and services, including resort apps, QR codes, and group sales services (e.g., Groupon), are less widespread, and may have potential for areas that adopt them.
These are the key conclusions of a survey conducted by GenAura and SAM Magazine last fall. The survey reached nearly 100 resorts and probed their use of digital communications for both promotional and marketing purposes.
Resorts across North America are effectively using resort websites, social media networks (e.g., Facebook), and microblogging services (e.g., Twitter) to enable their promotional strategies. Ninety-eight percent of the ski resorts have a resort website, 95 percent use social media networks, and 82 percent employ microblogging services for promotional purposes.
But these resorts are less likely to use other new technologies to enable promotional strategies. Just 40 percent of all ski resorts report using group coupon services (e.g., Liftopia, Groupon), and less than a third use location-based services (e.g., Foursquare). Similarly, about one-third of the ski resorts report using QR codes, while just over 20 percent report using resort apps for promotional purposes. Yet all these technologies/services can help boost sales, as a few of the resorts using them have discovered.
And digital promotions succeed, for the most part. The survey showed that conventional promotions dispensed via websites, social networks, Twitter, and text messaging regularly achieve both short- and long-term sales gains. For websites and social networks, more than 80 percent of resorts report that digital promotions increase sales, most often long-term sales. Group coupon services, Twitter and virtual communities that resorts sponsor are also effective.
Other digital communications have the potential to increase sales, although these are not as widely used by resorts. Of resorts that have their own apps, nearly half report initial and prolonged sales increases for promotions that are offered through the apps. This is also true for both on-mountain and off-mountain QR code-based promotions.
Location-based services are can also have a positive sales impact. Almost one-third of ski resorts using location-based services for check ins report a sales increase, and 39 percent using location-based services for task completion report elevated sales.
The takeaway: resorts should explore the newer digital technologies and services, and not rest on the success of the older, more established digital vehicles (websites, Facebook, and Twitter). As consumers expand the range of their digital tools, resorts that follow suit can gain a greater share of wallet.
Communications Strategies
The news here is similar to that for digital promotions: resorts have primarily used websites, social media, Twitter, online advertising, and distribution/sharing services (e.g., YouTube) to enable their communications strategies. For advertising purposes, virtually all resorts use a website and nearly all are present on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And the majority use paid online advertising.
How effective are these for advertising? A whopping 95 percent of areas report that advertising on their websites drives both short- and long-term sales increases. Additionally, 84 percent of the resorts that advertise via social networks report initial and prolonged sales increases. Paid online advertising succeeds 75 percent of the time, and distribution/sharing and microblogging services pay off between half and two-thirds of the time.
But only a third of resorts are using text messaging and QR codes for advertising purposes. And fewer still use virtual communities and resort apps. Is this because these technologies and services are less effective than websites, social media networks, and microblogging services, or because resorts have not learned to exploit them yet? Hard to say.
Text messaging pays off about half the time. With QR codes and resort apps especially, resorts have a ways to go in using them to raise revenues. Only four in ten of those who use QR code-based ads, on- or offsite, report a sales increase. With resort apps, just 25 percent report a sales increase. Given the great potential of resort-specific apps, it’s clear that there’s a good deal of untapped potential in this avenue.
Bottom Line
What does all this mean? Resorts should continue to use websites, social media networks, microblogging services, distribution/sharing services, and paid online advertising to drive short- and long-term sales. And they should become familiar with the newer technologies, including resort apps, QR codes, and location-based services, because there are opportunities to increase sales with those technologies as well.
Additionally, the survey shows that some technologies and services, including resort apps, distribution/sharing services, and social media networks have more of a long- versus short-term impact on sales; consequently, they are especially useful for retaining customers and keeping them engaged. Not many areas have used resort apps and location-based services for check ins and task completions, but there’s no reason resorts can’t adapt these tools for that purpose. QR codes are also not widely used yet, but resorts that have employed them report increased sales about a third to half of the time, which is encouraging. As resorts become more clever in the way they use QR codes, these percentages will most likely rise.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snowfall Slows In The Alps and The Pyrenees

The big story of the past week has been a second week of very low temperatures in Europe, a period which is just coming to an end with warmer temperatures coming in off the Atlantic to the West. The cold weather has meant it has been too cold for much snow to fall anywhere.In fact with snowfall in North America fairly muted still there have been very few big accumulations of snow anywhere in the world over the past week, the smallest falls for two months. Italian resorts have fared best with some 60-90cm (2-3 feet) accumulations.
Austria’s ski slopes are all in a great shape with the low temperatures and some small snowfalls from time to time. The snowfall has calmed down during the last week in Austrian ski resorts. In recent days the most snowfall has been reported in Salzstiegel with 40cm. There’s been 32cm at Innsbruck’s Nordkettenbahnen over the past week and 25cm at Feuerkogel. The most snow came down on Valentine’s Day-Tuesday, with three resorts reporting a powder alarm for more than 20 cm new snow, including Diedamskopf (30 cm), Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen (30 cm) and Damüls (20 cm). The best snow depths can be found with 470 cm at Dachstein Glacier and St Anton.
With very cold weather predominant in France over the past week there has been little fresh snow, with the biggest falls of 40cm over the past seven days coming at small resorts in the south of the country and in the Pyrenees. There has been some fresh snow though to freshen up the slopes which in most cases have deep bases built up over the previous two months. Avoriaz reports 10cm (today – Wednesday 15 February), La Rosiere 5cm for example. The deepest snow in the country is in the Chamonix Valley with 4.3m (12.3 feet).
Resorts in Italy have posted the most snowfall in the past 7 days of any country in the world. The little area of Monte Amiata was the only one to report more than a metre of new snow anywhere in the world this week, with 165cm (5.5 feet). Some of the larger resorts in the dolomites have had impressive snowfalls – 60cm (two feet) for Arabba and 45cm (18 inches) at neighbouring Alta Badia. Here are all snow depths in Italy.
There are excellent ski conditions across Switzerland at the moment with small falls of snow most days keeping the pistes fresh. That means slopes can be well groomed each day. The biggest falls of the past week were only 45cm and 40cm in total at Degersheim and Ebenalp/Appenzellerland. Engelberg still haws the deepest snow depth of 476cm, followed by Champex-Lac, and also Laax, both with 380 cm.
The Pyrenees have continued to have some good snowfalls over the past week with Spain’s Baqueira Beret (picture attached) coming out top with another 30cm accumulation overnight on Tuesday. It now has a snow base of 2.5m, not far behind Cauterets on the French side which has the deepest snow in the region at 3m (10 feet).
With little fresh snow in the Alps, the new snow falling in Scandinavia, particularly in the past 48 hours, has made it one of the snowiest regions in Europe at present. Are (Sweden), the region’s biggest resort, is the only one in the world to issue Powder alarms for 20cm+ falls for two successive days. Norwegian resorts have the deepest snow in the area however with Røldal the deepest at 385cm (13 feet).
Although England was gripped by sub-zero temperatures last week, in an unusual contrast Scotland was not, and temperature were up to 20 degrees higher than the -15C reported in South Eastern Britain. This has had some affect on snow cover at the five Scottish ski areas with The Lecht particularly hard hit with only very limited terrain open. The other four areas have between 25 and 50% of their terrain open.
Canada remains buried deep in snow but the cold temperatures of January have eased to make the experience of skiing or boarding it all ever more pleasurable. "Warm ski temperatures and impeccable grooming have made for great cruising from top to bottom on all mountain faces while soft snow awaits in the 15 gladed areas around the mountain", said a statement from Revelstoke in BC. "Additional top-ups of snow over the last few days (11cm in 48hrs and 17cm in the last 7 days) over a deep base of 208cm has enhanced the soft snow surface and groomed conditions". The deepest snow in the country is in BC with Powder king deepest with 401cm, however Mont Sainte Anne over in Quebec is not far behind with 368cm.
There have been some significant snowfalls in the USA over the past week, good news with a holiday weekend for Presidents Day in the country. Resorts in California, which has had a particularly challenging winter with snowfall typically a third of the average rate in contrast to the previous record breaking winter, have reported healthy accumulations of up to 25cm (10 inches). Resorts say conditions are now great. The deepest snow in the country is still in the NorthWest with Mt Baker in Alaska living up to its title of the world’s snowiest resort with 478cm (16 feet) of snow lying), 2cm (less than an inch) more than its closest rival (Engelberg in Switzerland with 476cm). Eaglecrest in Alaska is second with 401cm (13.3 feet).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sochi 2014 Celebrates Two Years To Go With Volunteer Launch

The Sochi 2014 Organising Committee has marked the two-year countdown to the start of the Games by announcing details of its volunteer recruitment program.
An estimated 25,000 volunteers will work during the Games in Sochi in more than 20 areas, including meeting and greeting the delegations at the airport and helping to organize the closing ceremony.
Applications can be made via a form on the volunteers official website. Anyone between the ages of 18-80 (on 6 January 2014) is eligible to become a Sochi 2014 volunteer.
Following the online application, bids will be received by one of 26 Sochi 2014 volunteer centres situated all over the country, according to a chosen activity area and region of residence. Applicants will receive registration acknowledgement within a few days of submitting their application, and those whose bids satisfy the requirements mentioned at vol.sochi2014.com will be invited to a selection interview.
Different events held all over the country, in conjunction with the 26 Sochi 2014 volunteer centres, will mark the start of the volunteers’ recruitment. The most important event will be in Sochi at the "Rosa Khutor" Alpine Center in Krasnaya Polyana, which Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Kozak is due to attend. Volunteers will light a giant heart (1.2m x 1.2m), the symbol of the Sochi 2014 volunteer movement.
The President and CEO of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, noted: "If volunteers come to Sochi they will not just get a nice volunteer uniform, but also the chance to see their sports idols. The best of the best, chosen through competition, will be involved in a great historical event, which they will remember for their whole lives".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feel The Lurve With Skiinfo This Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again and your friends at skiinfo have trawled the offers from ski resorts around the world to entice you on to their soft, white, fluffy slopes for Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the skiinfo top 10 for both established couple and those ‘looking-for-love’ collected by Skiinfo staff across Europe and North America:

Austria: Snuggle Up
It’s quirky, it’s different and one to add to the list of ‘been there, done that’. At 2020m, you can spend the night in one of the 14 igloos, at the Igloo-Village in Kühtai. The "new" Inuit sleep on an airbed with a layer of sheepskin and in a warm winter down sleeping bag and have a hot tub en suite – pretty much. Prices start from €163.50 for 2 adults/per night at the Igloo-Village, only 35km from Innsbruck, including a welcome-drink, fondue-dinner and breakfast.

France
Valentine’s Day Dinner In A Gondola? (or "Have you ever Eaten Ostrich on a Ski Lift?"). Les Gets in France is offering the chance to, "surprise your loved one", with a romantic dinner by starlight in the Mont Chery gondola on Valentine’s Day 2012. The lift’s cabins will be decorated to provide a warm, romantic atmosphere and each course will be served every time you pass through the lift station, enjoying views of the resort at night. The dinner lift ride is 50 Euros per person with champagne and wine included, book at www.lesgets.com/valentine


Canada: Try a Love Cocktail
Après-ski at the Bar Le Tucker is the focus of Valentine’s Day activity at beautiful Mont Sutton in Quebec. On February 11 skiers and boarders can wear a ribbon with a colour illustrating if they’re in a relationship or looking for love on the slopes and in the bar and then on the day itself there’ll be "love cocktails" there’ll be sweet après-ski with a chocolate fountain.

Germany: Free Riding If Your Name is Valentine
On February 14th everyone named Valentin, Valentine or Valentina (has anyone seen Trading Places?) will get free skiing in any of the five ski resorts belong to the Alpen Plus group (Brauneck-Wegscheid, Wallberg, Spitzingsee-Tegernsee, Sudelgeld, Zahmer Kaiser). Bring proof! (http://www.alpenplus.com/).

Italy: Visit The Home of St Valentine
Courmayeur is as good choice for couples at any time of year, but it comes in to its own on February 14th as St Valentine is the famous Italian resort’s patron saint, meaning his feast day is celebrated throughout the resort on its slopes and in bars and restaurants.

Japan: Heart Shaped Cake
The wonderful Graubunden bakery in Niseko has some special offers for the big day. For guys (and also girls who bring a guy with them) there are discounted rates on cake with coffee or tea and special heart shaped cakes available by advance order.

The Netherlands: Feel The Love On Indoor Snow
From 10 to 19 February SnowWorld Landgraaf in The Netherlands, the world’s largest indoor snow centre by slope area, is offering a special Valentines package for two (of course!). € 69,50 buys two x two hour lift tickets, a welcome ‘love’ cocktail and a cheese, meat or fish fondue for two too. Or you can make a night of it (if things go well…) with the Valentines Package including an overnight at SnowWorld’s on site four star hotel including breakfast the morning after and the skiing, cocktail and fondue as above. Price €79,50 per person (based on two again…).

Scotland: Win A Chocolate Fondue
Skiers at CairnGorm Mountain who visit the Ptarmigan Bar during their day on the slopes and enter their name and mobile phone number in the draw can win a Chocolate Fondue and Cocktails for two at International Starters in the local resort village of Aviemore on Valentine's evening. They’ll text you by 4pm if you have won.

Switzerland: Random Mobile Phone Dating in Verbier
V Day in Verbier for those who register means a day of blind dates, including speed dating on the chairlift, and after an aperitif and lunch the highlight will be a concert in Médran Café . Register online and via Facebook (http://www.verbierbooking.ch/de/agenda/valentinstag-fur-singles-148-562).

USA: Poetry Contest
Squaw Valley in California goes overboard on Valentine’s Day each winter with a whole host of fun activities. These include hunting for Valentine’s Day goody bags on the slopes, a special ‘singles line’ on the chairlift for those looking for love who can indulge in a little speed dating on the ascent; and the sale of heart shaped cookies scripted with love poetry in the Wildflour Bakery. You can also enter a competition in the bakery to write your own love poem on a biscuit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snowfall Slow In Cold Alps But Heavy In The South

Most of Europe has been shivering in sub-zero temperatures which have kept slopes in the Alps in great condition but frozen out much fresh snowfall in most places, not that many resorts need more at this stage after the huge December and January falls.
The most noticeable aspect of the past week has been very low temperatures – typically in the -10C - -20C range in the northern Alps, although St Moritz reported an overnight low of -33C on Monday morning.
In Southern and Eastern Europe there have been big falls however and indeed, unusually, it is a resort in southern Italy that has racked up the most snowfall over the past seven days for any resort in Europe or North America – with 1.8m. The mainstream media has also been showing snow in unusual locations like the Colleseum in Rome, and the extreme cold and heavy snow has been causing major health and safety issues in several Eastern European countries. In ther south west there’s been more heavy snow in the Pyrenees.
To the north of Europe the first significant snowfalls have been reported in Belgium and there was a few centimetres in the UK
Over in North America there has been less fresh snowfall too although most resorts have had a few inches and Colorado has had quite a good week, in places at least with some resorts reporting three feet of new snow, although others nearer six inches.
It has been snowing again in Austria after a couple of days with sun, blue sky and minus 20 degrees with nearly no snowfall. Seven resorts reports more than 20cm of snowfall including Obertauern and Schladming. This snowfall has now lessened and it’s sunny again at present.
There is still a lot snow at the slopes in most resorts in Austria with 480cm snow at the Dachstein Glacier and St Anton at Arlberg and 440cm at Lermoos.
As throughout Europe, a dry cold has settled over France for about a week and no major changes are expected, probably until next Tuesday. All the eastern mountain areas (Vosges, Jura, Massif Central and Alps) report every morning polar temperatures (-17 to -24°c) and with this cold, no hope of any new snow. However in the south the French Pyrenees have been seeing heavy snowfall all week.
Italy has seen some of the largest snowfalls in the world in the past seven days with Roccaraso – Rivisondoli topping the snowfall league with 1.9m (over six feet) since this time last week. In the dolomites to the both there have been healthy falls averaging 40cm too.
In Switzerland conditions are great at the moment and the next few days will remain sunny and cold. In some areas like Appenzellerland and Airolo fresh snow came down on Tuesday. In Engelberg you still can find the best snow depth with 470cm followed by Gstaad Mountain Rides with 400 m and Crans Montana with 390cm. Ski resorts like Saas Fee with 342cm snow and nearby Zermatt are also in very good in shape but temperatures are around minus 17 degrees and the sky is sunny.
The Pyrenees has been spared the cold snap further north and has been receiving significant new snowfall daily all week. With daily falls from 10 to 20cm, the calculation can be done quickly: about a metre of fresh snow accumulated over the past week in. In France the tallys include 130cm at La Mongie, 110cm at Nistos, 105cm at Artouste and 95cm in Luz Ardiden. There have been similar falls in Andorra and Spain with Skiinfo powder alarms for 30cm or more in 24 hours yesterday (Tuesday 7 February) at Baqueira Beret and Formigal.
Conditions are good across Scandinavia with plenty of fresh snow falling over the past week at many resorts. Voss in Norway reported the biggest accumulation – of 98cm – over three feet.
In Scotland the snowfalls and blizzards of the last few days have freshened up the good base provided everywhere by the earlier snow, and have transformed the runs at Glenshee in eastern Scotland, where there had been less snow than at Glencoe and Nevis Range in the west.
The long period of freezing, dry weather in the east also allowed both Glenshee and The Lecht to use their snow cannons to make considerable amounts of artificial snow and CairnGorm to trial theirs extensively.
The snowy deluge that has been falling on Western Canada since mid-November appears to have finally taken a break this past week and for the first time this winter resorts in the East of the country have reported more snow in the past seven days then resorts on the west. That’s not a problem for the western resorts of course as they’re sitting on huge bases.
Mont Sainte Anne and Mont Sutton in the Quebec have some of the biggest falls with 15cm (six inches) in the past week.
It has been a typical 2011-12 season snow week in the USA as for much of the past two months with most of the snow falling to the south and north of the country with the best known resorts in the middle not getting so much, again. That said some resorts in Colorado did receive up to 90cm (three feet) of new snow since last Wednesday with Telluride, clocking up two feet (60cm), half of it yesterday (Tuesday 7 February). Other big name resorts had rather less – Snowmass 26cm and Breckenridge 16cm. There were similar moderate falls at Utah resorts. The biggest accumulations were again in the north west of the country in Alaska (201cm for Alyeska – nearly seven more feet) and down in the south in New Mexico (52cm at Taos). Mt Baker in Washington State is up at its usual ‘most snow accumulated in the world’ mark with 4.8m (16 feet) lying. Not much new on the East Coast though – just 3cm (an inch) for Killington where just over half the terrain is open with deepest snow depth 90cm (three feet).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cold In The Alps, Snowy in The Pyrenees, Buried in Canada

There’s a mixture of snow news and cold front news as temperatures dip to -10C in the Pyrenees and -20C in parts of the Alps this week. That’s fairly tame however compared to the January temperatures recorded in Alaska, the coldest ever in parts of the state, with a low of -73F at Arctic village in the north, which is saying something considering how cold it usually is anyway.
The southern Alps and Pyrenees have had a particularly good week for snowfall notching up up to 1.3m so far, and it’s on going.
In North America Western Canadian resorts are beginning to talk about a potential record snowfall winter with some already past 90% of their average seasonal snowfall totals. In the USA conditions are better than they were in the states that had been suffering from lack of snow, but the rate of recovery from fresh snow last week seems to have slowed again this.
There have been more snowfalls in Austria over the past week, if not on the huge wscale of early January, with the biggest reported at Dachstein West with 40 cm, Tauplitzalm with 30 cm and Fügen with 25 cm. Currently a very cold front determinates conditions at the slopes and temperatures around minus 20 are expected in the next days although snow is expected to return by the weekend. The best deepest snow depth is at St Anton which has a 490cm base. Other areas with bases now more than four metres include Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald, Lermoos, Sonnenkopf, Tauplitzalm and Loser .
There’s been yet more snowfall in France from the Jura to the Pyrenees through the Massif Central and the Alps. The especially good news is that lower altitude and southerly regions that had not had so much snow in January have had good falls too this time. The Pyrenees did especially well with up to 95cm falling at some resorts so far. The heavy snowfall in the Southern Alps was important for two reasons. First the quantity – for example 55 cm of fresh snow fell in 48 hours on the Val d'Allos on Monday and Tuesday and secondly because these falls have finally covered the whole of the Southern Alps and in particular the Alpes Maritimes and Alpes de Haute Provence where ski resorts offered a far less snow than their counterparts in the Hautes-Alpes.
The Northern Alps, which have already seen record snowfalls in January, have continued to do well with 10 Powder Alarms issued on Tuesday for 20cm+ falls by ski resorts in Haute Savoie (30cm in Combloux, 20 cm in Les Houches ...) and Isère (20cm at Les 2 Alpes).
Resorts in Italy have been topping the snowfall league in Europe with Limone in the country’s south west reporting the most snow on the continent with 130cm (4.3 inches) and the 2006 Olympic resorts of Sauze d’Oulx, Sestriere and others not far behind with a metre of fresh snow in the past week.
It’s been another snowy week in Switzerland and over the last seven days Gstaad had the most new snow with 80 cm. There have been good falls as well in Lötschental with 70 cm and Frutigen with 65 cm. 10 resorts reported 20 to 25 cm snowfall on Tuesday and a few centimetres of more are expected for the next few days. The cold front stops in Switzerland as well with temperatures up to minus 20 degrees and it’s expected to be a cold but sunny weekend. Best snow depth is still in Engelberg with 470cm, followed by Crans Montana 430cm, Laax 418cm and Gstaad Glacier 3000 with 400cm.
The Pyrenees have been the snowiest area of Europe over the past few days with up to a metre of snow falling on the French, Andorran and Spanish sides of the border. On the Spanish side Baqueira Beret claimed 1.1m (nearly four feet, picture attached) and on the French side there was 95cm at La Mongie and the snowfall has continued without interruption since Sunday. Good news as the region had hasd little fresh snow through January until now.
Conditions remain good at most Scandinavian resorts with Røldal in Norway still boasting the deepest snow in the region as it has for two months now with 3.3m (11 feet) lying. Coastal Voss has nearly three metres.
Still mixed conditions in Scotland with all five centres having between a quarter and three quarters of their terrain open – usually higher, flatter runs. Conditions have been calm in most cases since the weekend with blue skies and cold temperatures maintaining snow cover and making skiing and boarding pleasant, but more fresh snow would be welcome.
As parts of North America still battle for good snow cover, some resorts in Alberta and BC in Canada look set to break records for snowfall tallys by the end of their long season in May. Heavy snowfall has continued this week at most resorts in the region. With over three months left to go in the ski season, Marmot Basin near Jasper had already received over 12 feet (372 cm) of snowfall which is 93% of its annual average. If the next three months produce typical amounts of snowfall, Marmot Basin will exceed its all time snowfall record of 529 cm set way back in 1965. "There is very little snow on the ground in one of our closest big cities Edmonton and when some people get to the mountain they are really surprised at how much snow we have" says Brian Rode, Marmot’s VP of marketing. "Marmot’s base elevation is very high so the rain that has fallen at lower elevations this winter has been all snow at Marmot". Eastern Canadian resorts also had good news this week with 20-30cm accumulations on Sunday alone reported by Mont Ste Anne and Le Massif.
There have been smaller accumulations in Western USA after the big falls a week ago in California, Colorado and Utah. The deepest snow is still in the north west of the continent in Washington State, Idaho, Alaska and Wyoming. Breckenridge in Colorado has opened all 31 of its lifts for the first time this season today (Feb 1) after more fresh snow in Colorado allowed them to open more terrain. "The Breckenridge Ski Patrol has worked extremely hard and been very diligent to open up our terrain as soon as we feel it is safe to do so", said the Breckenridge Ski Patrol Director. "Getting the Imperial Express Super Chair open is key for us to get the rest of our alpine terrain open for our guests".
On the East Coast it has not really been a historic snowfall winter so far but resorts continue to make the most of what mother nature is offering. In New Hampshire the past three weeks have seen a repetitive storm cycle swing in to the Mount Washington Valley and Pinkham Notch.
"Despite a weary eye on warm temps and rain occasionally, we do keep getting snow weekly. And at this time, the weekly storm cycle deposited another 6” of mostly snow and then a sleet that still accumulated in to the afternoon", said a statement from Attitash Mountain Resort.