Thursday, March 29, 2012

US Resorts extend closing dates

Weather-challenged resorts in the East and West are declaring their commitment to guests by making snow, extending their seasons, or offering free skiing and riding.
As most Eastern ski resorts are closing for the season in the wake of last week’s unprecedented heat, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, and Loon Mountain—all managed by Michigan-based Boyne Resorts—are making more snow to carry the season into April. Saddleback, Maine, is doing the same. All turned on the snowguns this morning as temperatures fell into the 20s. This marks the latest snowmaking in history for all four resorts, and for the Boyne resorts, coincides with the spring sale of their 2012–13 New England Pass ($359 and up). Saddleback is making snow on five trails, with tickets priced at $39 today. Passholders from other areas pay $29 if they bring their passes. And on Maine Day, Apr. 1, tickets are $29. Waterville Valley, N.H., didn’t turn on the guns again, but it is offering free skiing and riding Mar. 26-Apr. 1 on the snow it already has. "We've been stockpiling a few feet of snow on our Exhibition trail, so unless it rains boiling water for a week, there will be plenty of free spring skiing and riding to go around", said Bob Fries, president of mountain operations.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows announced on Monday they will extend daily operations through the month of April, with Alpine scheduled to remain open Friday through Sunday through May 13. Squaw and Alpine's 2012-13 season passes will offer free skiing and riding at both resorts starting April 1 through the close of the season. Passes are slated to go on sale on March 27.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village will stay open through Easter Sunday, and possibly the weekend after, conditions permitting, a resort official said Tuesday.
Vail Resorts' Heavenly and Kirkwood are extending their respective winter seasons in the wake of big late-season storms. Heavenly was slated to close April 15. Instead, the resort will shut down during the week, and re-open Friday through Sunday Apr. 20-22 and 27–29, weather and conditions permitting. Kirkwood will follow the same three-day weekend-only schedule, and operate for as long as conditions permit. "We wanted to reward all the pass holders who stood by us this season", said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s general manager. New 2012-13 passholders also gain access to the extended portion of the season.
The 16th Annual Spring Loaded festival is underway at Heavenly, with concerts including the Gunbarrel 25 hosted by Glen Plake on April 7, Lake Tahoe Pond Skimming World Championship April 14-15 and the Heavenly Angels Helly Hansen Fashion Show as well as the Ski Patrol Fundraiser on April 14.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nearly Half Of Lower Altitude Resorts Now Closed By Heat,…But Mostly Good Conditions At Remainder

Many of the world’s lower altitude ski areas have closed a week or two early as record-breaking warm temperatures in March in large parts of Europe and North America – approaching the high 80s Farenheit/20s Celcius has led to melt down on their slopes. At the same time the summer-like weather has meant many people have turned early to biking and golf.
Although there’s been virtually no fresh snow this week. However, conditions at higher-altitude and northerly latitude resorts in Europe are generally good to very good, thanks to the thick snowpack that built up through the exceptionally snowy months of December and January. There has also been quite a lot of fresh snow in the Pyrenees.
In North America it’s a different picture as Western Canadian resorts have had a good season all winter and remain, mostly, in great shape. Western US resorts to the south have had great snowfall this month and are also now in good shape in most cases with some announcing extended seasons. The big victim however is the East Coast where high temperatures mean that all but a handful of the top resorts have closed early.
There’s been no new snow fall at all during the last seven days in Austria. The last week was just sunny with nearly no cloud in the sky so skier and boarders can still enjoy some of best Spring conditions on the slopes. Ski resorts like Zillertal, Katschberg, St Anton and many more report best weather and good conditions. Despite its comparatively low resort altitude in SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental even the valley runs are still open and with a snow depth from 150cm (50cm) is still plenty deep enough base for skiing. The Best snow depth in the country can be found on the Dachstein Glacier with 540 cm. Ten other resorts still have a depth over three metres (ten feet) including Pitztal with 370cm, St Anton with 360cm the Molltaler Glacier with 320cm and Solden with 302cm.
The unusually warm weather that is affecting most of the northern hemisphere’s major ski regions has led to almost half of the ski areas in France closing -albeit in most cases the smaller, lower resorts that are suffering the most from the thaw. Although the warm weather has out far more people off winter sports and in to early gardening or biking, 118 resorts are still open and most of the big destinations are still benefitting from snowfall build up in December and January and plan to stay open to mid-April or even early May as planned. So while all but half a dozen of the biggest resorts have closed in France’s lower lying ski areas like Voges, Jura and the Massif Central, 80% of ski resorts in the internationally best-known northern Alps are still open and 86% of ski slopes are still practicable. What’s more the average snow base in the northern Alps is truly exceptional: 194cm (6.5 feet) at the top of the slopes and 64cm (over two feet) at the bottom. Conditions are also still good in the French Pyrenees and in the larger resorts of the Southern Alps. Here 16 resorts are still operating (while 23 others have already closed. The average snow depth here is 70cm (but up to 150cm (five feet) in Serre-Chevalier and 120cm (four feet) at La Grave and Montgenèvre).
There’s been no new snow in Italy in the past week with warm temperatures the dominant factor as elsewhere in central Europe. This means lovely sunny ski days but an impact on the snow cover. The deepest snow is on the Presena Glacuier above Passo Tonale with 3m (190 feet). Five other resorts have 2.7m (9 feet) or more including Arabba in the dolomites and, with an unusual top 5 snow depth position – Etna Nord in Sicily on the slopes of the famous volcano!
There have been sunny days in Switzerland too with the only snow fall reported in Laax with 20cm last Thursday. Slowly but surely snow depth are going down with the warm weather and Engelberg can no longer hold its record snow depth of over 6 metres (20 feet), it’s now down to 545cm (18 feet). There’s still 4m (13.3 feet) at Andermatt and 350cm (nearly 12 feet) lying above Crans Montana, Laax and Saas Fee. The conditions on the slopes are excellent and in year-round ski destination Zermatt there’s still some off piste freeriding to enjoy with a 130cm snow base.
The Pyrenees have seen the most snow in Europe over the past week. The two Andorra ski regions of GrandValira and VallNord have both reported 50cm each of new snow and depths are good in the Spanish Pyrenees too. Average snow depth in the French Pyrenees is 132cm of snow measured at the top of the runs and 16 resorts in the Pyrenees will remain open until Easter (or until 15 April if snow lasts). The deepest snow is at Cauterets, Luz Ardiden and Peyragudes with 225, 185 and 180 cm respectively.
There’s been almost no new snow in Norway or Sweden and snow cover is getting thin at many resorts. Hemsedal – normally open to early May - has 45cm, (18 inches) left on upper slopes. The nest snow depth is reported at Voss with more than three metres (10 feet) lying. With Scotland reporting a record high of nearly 24C close to The Lecht ski area on Tuesday there’s now little chance of a resumption of snowsports this season, although we live in hope as temperatures are at least now dropping back towards single figures. Cairngorm has introduced its summer guided hiking programme from the top of the funicular a month early, starting this weekend.
Western Canada continues to enjoy some of the best snow conditions of anywhere in the world, as it has all winter 2011-12. Resorts in BC have reported up to 90cm (three feet) of new snow in the past week and ther4e have been healthy accumulations in Alberta too. Despite this many resorts in the region will, as is traditional, enter their last week of operations next week. "It was sunshine, blue skies, and soft spring snow all weekend long at Revelstoke Mountain Resort this past weekend! 6cm of snowfall was received overnight and light precipitation along with excellent spring skiing temperatures are forecast …until our season-end on Sunday April 8th", said a statement from the resort with North America’s biggest lift served vertical. Not every resort will closed though – Sunshine, Lake Louise, Marmot Basin and Whistler are open to May or later.
Western USA has again had the most snow in the past seven days of anywhere in the world – the largest reported accumulation 1.25m (over 4 feet) at White Pass in Washington State. Several resorts including Heavenly and Northstar in California have joined the list or areas extending their 2011-12 seasons to the last weekend in April. However resorts are closing earlier than planned after an exceptionally warm March in Eastern North America has continued after the third warmest winter on record in the region. Whiteface Mountain by the Olympic venue of Lake Placid in New York State, which operates the biggest lift served vertical on the Eastern side of North America, closed at the weekend with dozens of others. "Trails are changing rapidly, (skiers should) be prepared for thin cover, bare spots, and some walking may be necessary", warned a spokesperson for the resort on closing day, adding, "Overall, thanks to our dedicated snow making and mountain staff, we had a great year despite the lack of snow from Mother Nature. Thank you everyone for skiing and riding the Greatest Vertical East of the Rockies - see ya next year!". Recently in some areas temperatures have been above 25C all week however some resorts that have a reputation for there snowsure conditions including Killington in Vermont and Sugarloaf in Maine say they expect to stay open in to April with at least some terrain open and cooler temperatures are forecast.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Best of the Swatch Freeride World Tour Xtreme Verbier

In front of more than 8500 astounded and cheering spectators, and over 40 000 viewers on the live feed on internet, the top-level athletes put on their highest game today to tackle freeriding’s most illustrious competition, the 17th edition of the "Xtreme Verbier". On the infamous north face of the Bec des Rosses, at 3222 metres, in Verbier, Switzerland, the skiers and snowboarders were challenged by a 500 metre steep, rocky, and technical face, testing even the very best. This is why only the very top-ranked riders qualified for this final and decisive competition of the six event Swatch Freeride World Tour 2012, which also determined the four World Champions in the disciplines of men’s ski, women’s ski, men’s snowboard, women’s snowboard. Surprisingly enough, all four winners of the Xtreme today also earned enough points to be crowned World Champions.The athletes were pushing the envelope in a tight battle for the world title. In tricky snow conditions, the competitors performed creative and stunning line choices while finding their way through the labyrinth of rocks scattered on the face. Judged on an overall impression by four judges of each of the categories ski and snowboard, any type of style can win. Throughout the season a big variety of style was witnessed on the podiums: big mountain chargers and more freestyle oriented athletes have been pushing the sport forward.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ski Utah Yeti Grants Powder Turns in August

Ski Utah, Eider, Rossignol, & Ski La Parva, Chile have launched the Endless Winter Sweepstakes on the Ski Utah Yeti Facebook page. The Sweepstakes aims to rev the stoke of skiers everywhere for many months to come with the Grand Prize of "Powder Turns in August".
Visitors to the Ski Utah Yeti Facebook page between now and April 20 will have the chance to enter to win an all expense paid ski vacation for two people to La Parva, Chile. The Grand Prize is valued at $8,500 and includes a week of ski-in/ski-out lodging, lift tickets, rentals and airfare for two.
Each of the contest entrants will also have the chance to win additional prizes by Rossignol and Eider. Week one of the contest, March 23-30, a winner will receive a choice of Rossignol Super 7 or S7W skis, or a MagTek or Diva MagTek snowboard. Week two (March 30-April 6) the winner will receive the Telluride Jacket by Eider. Contestants who enter at any point during the sweepstakes are automatically entered for the Grand Prize La Parva, Chile trip as well.
"Ski Utah is committed to making powder accessible to our consumers year round", said Ski Utah Content Editor Brandon Ott. "This contest demonstrates our commitment to that promise even in summer’s hottest month".
Ski Utah is the marketing firm owned and operated by the 14 statewide ski resorts (Alta Ski Area, Beaver Mountain, Brian Head Resort, Brighton Resort, Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Eagle Point, Park City Mountain Resort, Powder Mountain Resort, Snowbasin Resort, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Sundance and Wolf Mountain) that make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association. The organization has been creating brand awareness of and demand for the Utah wintersports product since its inception in 1978.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Freeride World Champions Crowned at the Swatch Freeride World Tour Xtreme Verbier

In front of more than 8500 astounded and cheering spectators, and over 40 000 viewers on the live feed on internet, the top-level athletes put on their highest game today to tackle freeriding’s most illustrious competition, the 17th edition of the "Xtreme Verbier". On the infamous north face of the Bec des Rosses, at 3222 metres, in Verbier, Switzerland, the skiers and snowboarders were challenged by a 500 metre steep, rocky, and technical face, testing even the very best. This is why only the very top-ranked riders qualified for this final and decisive competition of the six event Swatch Freeride World Tour 2012, which also determined the four World Champions in the disciplines of men’s ski, women’s ski, men’s snowboard, women’s snowboard. Surprisingly enough, all four winners of the Xtreme today also earned enough points to be crowned World Champions.
The athletes were pushing the envelope in a tight battle for the world title. In tricky snow conditions, the competitors performed creative and stunning line choices while finding their way through the labyrinth of rocks scattered on the face. Judged on an overall impression by four judges of each of the categories ski and snowboard, any type of style can win. Throughout the season a big variety of style was witnessed on the podiums: big mountain chargers and more freestyle oriented athletes have been pushing the sport forward.
Swede Reine Barkered put on the most impressive run of the day, skiing faster and going bigger than his opponents who took similar lines. With zero hesitation, he charged down the now so-called "Barkered Line", to stomp numerous big cliffs on his way down. With his top result in Verbier, Barkered scored enough points to be crowned World Champion just in front of American Drew Tabke and French Aurélien Ducroz, both executing outstanding runs today on the Bec des Rosses. "I was back and forth about this line, the conditions were harder than any year before, but I managed to stay on my feet. Typically, my plan is to make hard things look easy and that’s what I did. This is my fourth year on the tour and the win hasn’t set in yet. It’s beyond anything I could possibly imagine. I talked to my dad today and I heard him cry for the first time, it’s an incredible feeling", said Reine Barkered (SWE), World Champion Ski Men.
In the snowboard division French mountain guide Jonathan Charlet once again showed us his consistent riding throughout the season with a sweet run, an original line choice and hitting more features than other riders. "I did not think I would be able to win this title. I needed to consecutive victories. To win in Fieberbrunn and then in Verbier seems impossible. On the top of the Bec all the stress and pressure throughout the season came out and I told myself the best moment of the day would once passing the finish line. So now I am incredibly happy. My father was here, as well as my brother and a lot of friends from Chamonix", said Jonathan Charlet (FRA), World Champion Snowboard Men.
Veteran rider Flo Orley rode the Bec for his 12th time in competition and proved he is still in the game with a well earned second, placing him third on the overall ranking. American newcomer Ralph Backstrom has had a solid season. Despite not being on the podium today he still managed to be runner-up Champion.
Top ladies were charging hard with beautiful line choices. The top 3 female skiers Christine Hargin (SWE), Eva Walkner (AUT) and Angel Collinson (USA), rode “men’s lines” as judge Martin Winkler put it. Swede Christine Hargin won with a spectacular line; fast, no hesitation and stomping several jumps, including a huge cliff at the bottom. Hargin was blown away to have won the World Champion title, taking over the title from her older sister Janette Hargin (World Champion 2011)!
"The world champion win was totally a surprise to me! According to the pre-event calculations it was hardly possible for me to win. The conditions weren’t super easy with a bit of crust so keeping my line fluid was a challenge. The airs I took in the end ended up working out and I can’t wait to celebrate tonight in the Verbier Village", said Christine Hargin (SWE), World Champion Ski Women.
Snowboarder Maria Debari (USA) is new on the tour this year. She outplayed her opponents on the Bec des Rosses with a committed run, linking up great jumps including a variant of Christine Hargin’s big cliff, all while managing impressive sluff. With Debari’s win today she snagged the world title, in front of Margot Rozies (FRA) and Shannan Yates (USA). "When I was invited to ride the tour I first hesitated but then couldn’t resist the event in Chamonix. With my victory there I was encouraged to continue. My goal was to be qualified to ride here in Verbier. I was really nervous today as the title was as stake, the difficult face and that my mother was here! I am so happy with the season and the atmosphere between the girls is really awesome", said Debari.
Event Director Nicolas Hale-Woods (CH) comments the 17th edition of the Xtreme, and closing the 5th edition of the Freeride World Tour: "Once again we saw amazing riding on a face that never disappoints. The Bec des Rosses is a fantastic mountain and a beautiful finish of a successful Swatch Freeride World Tour 2012. A new generation of skilled and upcoming freeriders are accelerating the pace on the freeride scene right now. Young talents are motivated and propelled up through the system thanks to the Freeride Juniors by Dakine and the Freeride World Qualifiers (FWQ)".

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fresh Snow In The Alps, More Big Falls in Western Canada and US

After about a month of often warm temperatures and limited snowfall, large parts of the Alps are again have seen heavy snowfall again in the past few days, with resorts that are benefitting from the new accumulations now looking well set up for the final 4-6 weeks of the season.
Skiinfo issued more than 70 powder alarms for 20cm (8 inches) or more of new snow by noon on Monday 19th March, the biggest number of European alarms since the first half of February. However it has remained very warm with rain at lower elevations in some cases.
The snow is also back in the Pyrenees with resorts reporting up to 20cm of fresh snow in the past 24 hours (to 21st March).
North America continues to be very divided with exceptionally heavy snowfall continuing in the West, with falls of more than 2.4m/eight feet reported at some resorts over the past week, while on the East record high temperatures has led to melt down on the slopes, with Ontario in Canada breaking its record high March temperature of 16C set in 19676 by a full 8C last week, peaking at 24C.
The varied conditions have led to between moderate and high avalanche danger off piste on both sides of the Atlantic with several deaths of skiers in the backcountry in recent days in America and posted avalanche danger of ‘Considerable’ to ‘High’ in the Alps.
After a very warm and sunny week last week, snow is back in the Austrian Alps and on Monday four resorts report 20cm (eight inches) of new snow in the previous 24 hours, including Axamer – Lizum above Innsbruck, Kuehtai and Lech Zurs. Accumulations over the past seven days have included 50cm at Fuegen, 40cm at Obergurgl-Hochgurgl and 29cm on the Pitztal Glacier. The sunshine is now back. Some of the best conditions for skiing are as were reported from Nassfeld, the Kitzsteinhorn, Ischgl and Zell am See Kaprun where with the fresh powder, the slopes are in good shape for the last weeks in season.
French resorts in the Alps received significant snowfalls on Sunday/Monday this week – the largest in most cases for about a month. Avoriaz and Flaine reporting 30cm (a foot) each overnight. Les Gets, Chamonix and in the Southern Alps Serre Chevalier also all reported significant falls. Temperatures have remained high with rain falling at lower elevations in some cases but for most resorts conditions at the start of spring are good. The new snow builds on the deep bases established at many ski areas during what were for many record snowfalls in December and January and means these are now freshened up for the Easter holidays as resorts enter what is for most the last month of winter 2011-12.
Western Italian resorts benefitted from the snow across the Alps at the start of this week. Madesimo reported 30cm (a foot) of new snow and Monterosa around 25cm (10 inches). On the downside however temperatures remain very warm in many areas with rain at lower elevations and summer ski-like conditions at some resorts. However snow depths remain good at most leading resorts from west to East with Cervinia in the Alps and Passo Tonale in the Dolomites both reporting upper slope bases around 3m/10 feet.
Switzerland received the best of Europe’s snowfalls at the beginning of the week, which were the biggest on the continent this month. More than 20 ski resorts reported fresh snow from 20cm to 80cm. The biggest snow falls were measured in Airolo (80cm), Andermatt (60cm), Zermatt (40cm) and the Gstaad Glacier 3000 (30cm). Another five resorts reported a powderalarm on Tuesday, including Brig with 30cm, Meiringen-Hasliberg with 21 cm and Laax, Mythengebiet and Pizol / Heidiland with 20cm each. Engelberg has the deepest snow depth in Euirope and the second deepest in the world with 606cm!
There has been a return to cold weather in the Pyrenees and several resorts on the Spanish side of the mountains have reported 20cm of new snow. Base depths remain healthy at up to 2.4m (eight feet) at some centres. In Andorra, where temperatures have dipped to -10C at times, GrandValira, the biggest resort in the region, has reported 12cm of new snow in the past 24 hours.
Snow conditions remain good at many of Scandinavia’s leading resorts with Voss in Norway reporting more powder alarms for 20cm+ accumulations. It has the deepest snow in the region at 3.5m (nearly 12 feet).
In Canada the snowfall continues to be heavy on the western side of the country in Alberta and British Columbia. With Whistler having passed its seasonal average figure of just over 190m of snowfall with, in its case, several months of the season remaining. Revelstoke Mountain Resort has received 66cm of new snow in the last 7 days with over 20cm falling in the last 48hrs. There’s more snow in the forecast through to the weekend with some lovely sunshine and great spring skiing temperatures anticipated. It’s looking less promising in exceptionally warm weather in Quebec and Ontario on the Eastern side of the country. "The snow cover at Mont Sutton, Quebec is still great on several trails", said a resort statement. "This said, some trails also offer bare-spots to the delight of spring skiing enthusiasts looking for an additional challenge!". Continuing warm temperatures are forecast for the next few days.
With only a few weeks of the season left at many resorts, Western US resorts are currently topping world table for both snowfall and snow depth. Tahoe continues its return to form with Alpine Meadows reporting the most snow in the world over the past week, and the biggest fall anywhere this winter, with 257cm – over eight-and-a-half feet. Mt Baker in Washington State to the north has also had a massive amount of snow in recent weeks and its snowbase at one point passed the 8m (27 feet) mark although has now fallen back below 8m – but it remains the only resort in the world top go beyond the 7 and 8m marks in winter 2011-12, maintaining its reputation as the planet’s snowiest destination. On the East Coast of North America it’s a very different story however with record highs and some areas talking of ‘summer ski’ conditions. Many still have some terrain open despite the onslaught of the high temperatures on the snowpack.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freeride World Champions to be Crowned at the Swatch Freeride World Tour Xtreme Verbier

The sixth and final stage of the Swatch Freeride World Tour 2012 will be held on freeriding’s most prestigious face, the north face of the Bec des Rosses in Verbier, Switzerland, Saturday, 24 March (weather permitting). The event will be more thrilling than ever with four world champions to be crowned and several potential winners in each of the disciplines men ski, women ski, men snowboard, and women snowboard.
Verbier and the fabled "Bec des Rosses" is considered the pinnacle of freeride competitions. With its extreme nature only the best 12 men skiers, 6 men snowboarders, 5 women skiers and 3 women snowboarders qualify. We will also see a few wild cards, like the three times snowboard world champion Xavier de le Rue (FRA). The Freeride World Champion titles will be awarded taking the four best results of the FWT12 season, including Verbier.
The Xtreme Verbier is also a major public festivity; in 2011 the event hosted more than 10,000 live spectators. The "Bec" never disappoints, with riders pushing the limits in the sport of freeriding. In its 17th consecutive edition the stake is higher than ever with the world’s best riders battling out to score a high place on the ranking and for some, grab the world champion title and a prize purse of 45 000 USD.

Potential World Champions

In both the ski men and women’s discipline it is a nail-biter, with not less than five international athletes having the potential to be world champion! The five men athletes are, in the current ranking order: Sam Smoothy (NZL), Drew Tabke (USA), Reine Barkered (SWE), Aurélien Ducroz (FRA) and newcomer Oakley White-Allen (USA). Drew Tabke, currently second on the overall ranking reveals the pressure: "Going to Verbier in this position is really quite heavy mentally and emotionally. It is always an intimidating place to ride and there is a ton of pressure with the world title in reach. But when it comes down to competition day I will approach it just like any other run, which is to say I will ski to the very best of my abilities and enjoy the entire run".
For the women skiers, all five riders qualified for Verbier have a chance to grab the world champion title! American Angel Collinson is leading the troop coming in to Verbier but Eva Walkner (AUT), Jaclyn Paaso (USA), Christine Hargin (SWE) and Janina Kuzma (NZL) are all close behind. On Saturday we will witness these female skiers setting the bar at its highest level. In the men’s snowboard discipline there are two potential champions. Will French Jonathan Charlet bring it home or will we see American Ralph Backstrom on top of the snowboarders’ podium? Both riders have been riding solidly and consistent all season and it could be anyone’s game.
In women’s snowboarding, newcomer Maria DeBari (USA) and rookie Margot Rozies (FRA) will both tackle the Bec des Rosses for the first time in the quest for the title. 3rd ranked Shannan Yates (USA) has been on the podium on all four previous competitions but still hasn’t reached the top step.

Live feed on FreerideWorldTour.com in partnership with Dailymotion starting at 09:00 am on contest day (contest starts at 09:30) with 10 live cameras, including stabilised air shots from heli (wescam) and two expert commentators: Enak Gavaggio for French and Jack Shaw for English.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Heavy Snow In The Alps

After about a month of often warm temperatures and limited snowfall, large parts of the Alps are again seeing heavy snowfall again, with resorts that are benefitting from the new accumulations now looking well set up for the final 4-6 weeks of the season.
Skiinfo issued more than 70 powder alarms for 20cm (8 inches) or more of new snow by 12.00 CET today (19 March). This is the biggest number of European alarms since the first half of February.
The snow has reported right across the mountain range with the leading French resorts at the westerly end of the Alps such as Avoriaz and Flaine reporting 30cm (a foot) each overnight. Les Gets, Chamonix and in the southern Alps Serre Chevalier also all reported significant falls.
The snowfall has got heavier still moving East with Swiss resorts reporting the biggest accumulations of up to 80cm in 24 hours with Andermatt reporting 60cm (two feet), Zermatt 40cm (16 inches), and Saas-Fee (picture attached) 25cm (10 inches).
In Italy to the south Madesino reported 30cm (a foot) of new snow and Monterosa around 25cm (10 inches).
Austria, where resorts have had the most snow in mainland Europe over the previous week, several resorts have already reported at least 20cm of new snow including Lech, Kuhtai and Axamer Lizum above Innsbruck.
The new snow builds on the deep bases established at many ski areas during what were for many record snowfalls in December and January and means these are now freshened up for the Easter holidays as resorts enter what is for most the last month of winter 2011-12.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Heatwave For Ski Areas

In much of Europe and large parts of North America the big factor of the past week has been unseasonably high temperatures – reaching 20C in the Alps and 70F in the USA.
This is clearly not good news for snow cover. The result has been that low lying areas that did not have a deep snow base have been struggling and in some cases closing. However most of the big resorts in the Alps are still benefitting from the big snowfalls they received in December/January and although conditions are currently prematurely ‘Springlike’ - snow cover is not a problem for them.
It has not been hot everywhere. North Western North America has continued to see heavy snowfall that has been the norm all winter with Mt Baker, already boasting the deepest snow in the world at more than 6m (20 feet) reporting another six feet (1.8m) in the past seven days and resorts in Alberta and BC north of the US border in Canada also seeing big snowfalls. Some resorts in Austria in the Alps have reported quite good falls too.
During the last week some ski resorts in Austria had quite good snow falls. About 20 resorts reported more than 20cm (8 inches) of new snow. These include the Zugspitzplatt ski area with 80cm of new snow, Solden with 51cm and Kaprun – Kitzsteinhorn with 40cm. This week skiers and boarders can expect good weather all over the Austrian Alps. It will be warm with the weather sunny at least up to Sunday with temperatures varying between +2 degrees on higher mountains peaks in the country right up to and up to 22 degrees in lower areas.
Although the slopes are now quieter and the temperatures warm, the ski season is still far from over in France. After some light snowfalls in the middle of last week (5 to 20cm), the weather is mostly sunny and some small, low lying ski areas have already closed their ski areas for the season (especially in the Vosges area). However snow depths remain good in the Northern Alps (still 290cm at the top of the slopes of Chamonix, 335cm in Flaine and 330cm in Alpe d'Huez), the Southern Alps (160cm in Montgenevre, 130cm in Serre Chevalier ) and the Massif Central (110cm at Mont Dore).
There has been almost no new snow reported in Italy in the past week. Of the few resorts that did report new snow, Limone on the easterly side had one of the biggest accumulations with 25cm (120 inches) of fresh. However snow depths remain sound at many areas with Passo Tonale – usually open with glacier skiing until June – reporting 330cm (11 feet) of snow on upper slopes and Arabba in the Dolomiti Superski region on the Sella Ronda circuit not far behind with 280cvm (more than nine feet).
Warm sunny weather is the norm in Switzerland this week. A lot of sunshine welcomes skiers to the slopes, who still have fresh snow from last week at many areas to enjoy. But temperatures are getting very mild – up to 20 degrees - all over the country. Les Prés d’Orvin ski resort reports the most snow in the country in the past week - 60cm (two feet). Loetschental had 35cm and Grindelwald and Gstaad 20cm each.
It has been sunny with no new snow reported in the Pyrenees on the past week. However again most areas are in reasonably good shape with up to 2.7m/9 feet lying (Baqueira Beret, Spain) on upper slopes although lower runs may be getting thin at lower resorts (typically 30-60cm/11-2 feet depth). In Andorra VallNord says snow depths are between 1.1 and 2.2m (approx 4-7 feet), and in the French Pyrenees there’s 235cm (7.5 feet) at Cauterets, 190cm (67.3 feet) at Luz Ardiden.
Scandinavian ski areas have largely done better than most of the rest of Europe over the past week with many ski areas getting some new snow and some – such as Voss in Norway – as much as 53cm (19 inches) in the past seven days.
There has been no skiing in Scotland since February after warm weather melted snow cover. Centres hope to re-open if there is a major change in the weather and prolonged snowfall.
It is as real East v West split in Canada at the moment with very high temperatures in the East bad news for the ski centres there, but some of the heaviest snow in the world this week reported on ski slopes in Western Canada. Although it is ‘Spring-like’ in Eastern Canada with temperatures heading towards the upper teens Celcius. However ski slopes in the region are keen to make clear that they are mostly still operational despite the unseasonal conditions. It’s a very different picture in Alberta and British Columbia where 33 inches (85cms) is reported to have fallen in the last 72 hours at Whistler Blackcomb taking their seasonal total past the 10 metre mark to 33 feet (10.2 m) snowfall so far this season. "Another incredible powder weekend at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, with 33cm accumulating in 24 hours", says the resort’s Sarah Windsor, "Snowfall timing has been spot-on this season at Revelstoke Mountain Resort with consecutive major powder dumps arriving each weekend, just in time for visiting skiers and snowboarders to enjoy!". Revelstoke is close to the 10m seasonal snowfall figure to date too.
Further East with over 120cm (four feet) of dry, light Canadian Rockies powder falling in Banff – Lake Louise in Alberta over the past week the area’s three resorts, Mt. Norquay, The Lake Louise Ski Area, and Sunshine Village are experiencing epic conditions. "There is nothing better than seeing the excitement on people’s faces as they pull up to the chairlift anticipating their next run, it is the reason why we are all here", said Dan Markham, Director of Marketing and Sales at Ski Banff Lake Louise Sunshine.
The USA is a country divided by temperature with heavy snowfall in the West, and temperatures soaring to +70F in the East. Resorts in Alaska and Washington State in the North West of the country have reported up to 1.8m (six feet) of new snow in the past week and already today (14 March) falls of up to 40cm (14 inches) have been reported in the same area for the past 24 hours. There have been snowfalls in the wider area too. Jackson Hole has had nearly half a metre (18 inches) of new snow and heavenly by Lake Tahoe more than a foot (30cm) in the past week.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

9th Glacier Bike Downhill Race in Saas-Fee

On March 24th, 2012 the 9th annual Glacier Downhill Bike Race will be held in Saas-Fee. This is no usual ride over hill and dale. Rather this race goes over ice and snow down to the glacier village. The riders will start en mass at 3’500m. During the first half of the race, enthralling fights are guaranteed to ensue for the lead position. It’s a race without spikes and of high velocity, with riders reaching speeds of 144 km/h. This year, the prize pool has a total value of 5‘000 Swiss Francs.
The mass start is on the Mittelallalin station at an altitude of 3’500m and goes down over the snowy and icy slopes to the glacier village at 1’800m. The riders have to manage 1’700 metres of altitude difference and 7 km of distance. First they ride on a narrow trail along the Fee glacier, which leads them to the panorama hill. For less experienced racers this is a real challenge. The hill is steep and has to be crossed at high speed. On this part of the trail, riders have been measured, per GPS, travelling at speeds of about 144 km/h.
Further down, the ride leads past the restaurant Morenia before entering the Valley run. This is going to be a very exciting part of the race with extremely steep passages, flat transits and narrow curves, and it is a real assessment of the rider and his material. The last part of the ride, a very flat passage, needs strength to be managed. The outcome of the race is often decided during this section of the course.
Shortly before the finish, the route becomes a little steeper. After reaching the desired end of the race, the award ceremony will take place and in the evening the riders party will be held at the Metropol Nightlife.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Freeride World Tour: Drew Tabke Took Victory in Fieberbrunn

The Tyrolean village of Fieberbrunn Austria hosted the last stage of the Swatch Freeride World Tour before the finals in Verbier, Switzerland. With the fantastic freeriding conditions, fresh powder, and beautiful blue skies, riders were fired-up to give the mountain their best shot and attempt to secure a place in the finals. With the small village filled to capacity with over 3400 spectators, riders delivered an awesome performance. Fresh powder snow on the aesthetic North face of the Wildseeloder (2117m) allowed the skier and American hero Drew Tabke to light up the venue with his creative lines and massive 360 into a smooth backflip. Jonathan Charlet (FRA) kept the snowboaders’ level high with a run that defines the word ‘fluid.’ The women are certainly not be left out; local ski favourite Eva Walkner (AUT) displayed some impressive riding and snowboarder Liz Kristoferisch cranked out some adrenaline-filled lines, bringing it home for Austria.

Ski Men: Drew Tabke’s (USA) mixed high-level big mountain skiing with smooth freestyle tricks in his typical trademark style. Tabke’s line was a treat to watch and upped the ante for other riders. "Fieberbrunn is an awesome place to ski and the mountains here are amazing. I had a good line with a back flip and a 360. It’s going to be a close competition between Sam Smoothy (NZL) and I at Verbier", said Tabke.
Kevin Guri (FRA) charged into second place with a huge double air and screaming-fast line. Tabke moved up one notch and is now in 2nd place on the World Tour while Sam Smoothy (NZL) maintains his leads. With a rough crash early in the event, previous favourites such as Oakley White-Allen (USA) were not able to hold it together for a podium finish. As always, the Swedish bullet Reine Barkered fired a high-speed line with stomped airs bringing him to a 3rd place finish.

Snowboard Men: Jonathan Charlet (FRA) rode a creative line with a technical couloir entrance and a couple of solid airs. Charlet’s creative approach was enough give him 1st place finish and raise the bar for other the snowboarders. "My Run was very good, I’m very glad to be here in Austria. It is the first time I have ridden here. Many people took the line I initially intended to ride, so I chose a new one where nobody else went. I had jumps, I had a straight line. We had good powder! Now I have the chance to win the tour at Verbier!". Charlet now sits on top of the overall Freeride World Tour Ranking.
Flo Orley (AUT) delivered his patented solid line style and technical riding. As impressive as Orley’s line was, it was not enough to place an Austrian on the top of the men’s snowboard podium. The Frenchman Aurelién Routens (FRA) rode a powerful line with a big double-set air that brought him into a respectable 3rd place.

Ski Women: There must be something in the girls’ water because they certainly took it to the next level. Eva Walkner (AUT) proved she wanted the podium with a powerful full-throttle line and big stomped airs. "It is so amazing to win in Fieberbrunn! The snow was perfect and everything came together exactly how I expected it to. It’s always difficult to manage risk and smooth, fluid skiing…but I did today in Fieberbrunn with a smooth, fun line". Walkner has moved up the ranks and now has to top American Angel Collinson to take the overall lead. The Swede Christine Hargin (SWE) kept her composure stayed on her feet for a smooth run, riding fast top to bottom and putting her in second place. Coming in third place, the Kiwi Janina Kuzma (NZL) showed her fellow athletes how to ski powerfully with several stomped airs on a creative and aesthetic line.

Snowboard Women: The girl snowboarders definitely put on an amazing show today with Liz Kirstoferitsch (AUT) standing on top of the podium with an innovative line that started with switch riding and came around with a half-cab (riding backwards and then jumping in the air a forward-riding stance) and some solid airs. "I was really nervous before the event but now that I skied my line and won, the the stress is gone", said Kirstoferitsch.
Shannan Yates (USA) put the pedal to the metal on a powerful, technical line with clean airs. Yates bold line and confident riding landed her a second place finish. The Kiwi rider Maria Kuzma showed the girls a fun time with a creative line choice and a 3rd place finish. Overall leader Maria DeBari keeps her number one position despite her absence at Fieberbrunn.

Next Stop: Swatch Freeride World Tour Xtreme Verbier, 24th of March, 2012.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Utah Lawmakers Pass Resolution Supporting Multi-resort Connection

The resolution passed the Utah State Senate on March 5, 2012 with a 22 to 7 vote and the House of Representatives on March 6, 2012 with a 58 to 16 vote, and currently awaits the signature of Utah Governor Gary Herbert. SCR10, drafted by Senator Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy), contends that resort interconnect would enhance the ski and snowboard resort industry’s contribution to Utah’s economy, jobs and tax base. Ski Utah supports Resolution SCR10 and the concept of low-impact interconnection of the seven resorts in Salt Lake and Summit Counties.

"Utah is uniquely positioned to create a ski and snowboard experience available nowhere else in North America", said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty. "This resolution urges interconnection of the seven Salt Lake and Summit County ski resorts using best environmental practices".
Ski Utah, its board of directors and 300+ members are encouraged by this next step toward a multi-resort interconnection including seven of Utah’s world-class ski areas and further strengthening Utah’s $1.2 billion ski industry."Although widely seen in Europe, a connection of this scale does not exist in North America", said Rafferty. "From a marketing and skier experience perspective, this would be a game-changer".

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Heavy snowfalls in Europe and North America

California is back on form with falls of up to 1.5m (five feet) reported in the past week. Other areas of western North America including Alberta and BC resorts north of the border in Canada have also reported big new accumulations.
In the Alps temperatures have largely dropped again and snowfall has resumed in the past few days.
There were good snowfalls at the beginning of the week for some of the big ski resorts in Austria. Sölden reported 23cm on Tuesday, Molltaler Glacier 20cm, Pitztaler Glacier 17cm and Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald 15cm on the same day. During the past week Sölden has had the most new snow with 52cm, followed by Bad Gastein 35cm, Molltaler Glacier 30cm and Axamer – Lizum 25cm. The best snow depth is on the Dachstein Glacier with an impressive 550cm. The coming days will be mostly sunny and skiers and boarders can enjoy the good conditions.
Temperatures have fallen again in France and there has been some fresh snow, with the biggest falls in the past seven days (around 40cm) in the more southerly resorts like Isola 2000.
There’s been some fresh snow at the bigger northern ski areas too, particularly on higher slopes at resorts like Tignes and Val Thorens (15cm) and Flaine (20cm).
In Italy ski resorts have reported some of the biggest snowfalls in Europe in the past week led by Arabba in the Dolomites with 90cm (three feet) of new snow. There’s been snow on the western side of the country too though with Alagna reporting 48cm and nearby Gressoney in the Monterosa region of the Aosta Valley 40cm (16 inches).
Switzerland has had a good snow start in the week with powder alarms for 20cm (8 inches) or more of fresh snow on Monday at the Gstaad Glacier 3000 and Mountain Rides (30cm), Champex-Lac (25cm) and Elm with 20cm and on Tuesday in Saas Fee (25cm), Laax (20cm) and Samnaun (20cm). Most snow over the last seven days has been reported in Ebenalp/Appenzellerland with 40cm. At the moment there’s 556cm of snow (nearly 19 feet) on the higher slopes in Engelberg (the most of any resort in Europe), 400cm in Laax, 380cm in Champex-Lac and 370cm in Crans Montana Aminona.
Conditions remain largely good in the Pyrenees where some resorts have been receiving fresh snowfall since Saturday. Baqueira Beret in Spain has the deepest snow in the area with 2.7m (nine feet) lying on upper slopes, 1.3m (4.43 feet) on lower runs. In Andorra Vallnord has the most snow with up to 2.1m (seven feet) and in France Cauterets with 245cm (eight feet).
Most ski areas in Scandinavia are in good shape despite warm temperatures in the south of the region last week. Snow depths are up to four metres (13.3 feet) at Roldal in Norway with Voss on 3.5m (12 feet).
All five Scottish ski areas are currently closed due to lack of snow. Nevis Range currently looks the most promising to open limited terrain but all five centres badly need a very large snowfall.
Western Canada has returned to deep snow days with most resorts in Alberta and BC reporting 60-90cm (2-3 feet) of new powder snow in the past week. In Alberta with over a metre of new snow blanketing Banff National Park, all three of the park’s world-class ski resorts are experiencing truly exceptional conditions. Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise ski resorts are all heralding the massive snowfall as the perfect start to a great spring ski season in Canada’s flagship national park. "This is definitely one of the top ten March snowfalls on record", said Mike Moynihan of The Lake Louise Ski Area. "We’ve seen a metre of snowfall this week and with the storm cycle finally clearing and giving way to clear blue skies, skiers and boarders are simply lapping it up". It’s still snowing in the East of the country too with Mont Sainte Anne and Mont Sutton in Quebec among Canadian resorts reporting 30-40cm of new snow in the past seven days.
There have been still more huge snowfalls in western USA with resorts in California definitely back-on-form and recovering lost ground in terms of snowfall from earlier this season. Several resorts around the Tahoe area have reported around 1.5m (five feet) of fresh powder in the past week including Squaw Valley and alpine meadows. It’s not just California in the West that is doing well though. Resorts in Utah have reported up to 1.2m (four feet) of fresh snow and Mt Baker in Washington State has had yet another 151cm (five feet) of snow moving it further ahead of the field in the ‘resort with the deepest snow base’ table – now at 660cm (22 feet).
Colorado had heavy snow at the end of last week but then warm sunny days at the start of this week giving springlike conditions. That’s changing though with temperatures plummeting and more snow expected for the remainder of this week.East coast resorts are still reporting big snowfalls too, led by Gore Mountain in New York state with 99vcm (over three feet) of new snow.

Mariah Carey To Close Winter Season in Ischgl

The superstar Mariah Carey will perform the legendary season closing concert at in Ischgl on Monday 30 April. "It doesn't get much better than this", said Tourist Office Director Andreas Steibl. "We are proud and excited to announce this exceptional star for the closing concert of this exceptional winter season. Mariah Carey has a distinctive and powerful voice, which is perfect for the Top Of The Mountain concert (...) As usual, we wanted to close the season with a huge international star and once again we've done it! Mariah Carey ensures that we will have our traditional world-class atmosphere for the closing party".
Mariah Carey will perform on the specially constructed open air stage at 2320m at Idalp, the ski hub area of Ischgl in the Paznaun Valley, and is expected to draw a crowd of 20,000 skiers, boarders and fans. She will be taking the crowd on a journey back through time, exploring her musical history over the past 20 years with hits such as Hero, Heartbreaker, Touch My Body, Someday and My All.
Mariah Carey is the best-selling female artist of all time. With an unprecedented record of 18 number one singles that rival all but The Beatles, she has made an indelible impact on the global music industry and audiences everywhere. Blessed with a stunning five-octave range and signature vocal abilities, the singularly talented superstar continues to reach new heights of artistic growth and popularity. As a singer and songwriter, she has been recognised with five Grammy Awards, nine American Music Awards, Billboard’s "Artist of the Decade" Award and the World Music Award for "World’s Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium" to name a few. The Ischgl concert is the only European one she is planning to do this year.
Mariah Carey follows in the footsteps of a galaxy of superstars who have entertained skiers and boarders in the Austrian resort's traditional Top of the Mountain gig. Fourteen years ago, Ischgl decided to put its entire advertising and marketing budget into staging two massive concerts a year to open and close the winter season. Elton John was the first star to feature in the Tirolean resort's now famous season closing concerts, back in 1995. Since then the resort has hosted Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Sting, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Atomic Kitten, Peter Gabriel, The Corrs, Alanis Morissette, Lionel Richie, Pink, the Scissor Sisters, the Pussycat Dolls, Rihanna, Elton John again, Gabriella Cilmi, Leona Lewis, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Gossip, The Killers and Roxette. This season's opening concert was performed by Roxette at the end of November 2011 to an enthusiastic crowd of 20,000.