Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fredrik Ericsson K2 Ski Expedition 2010

After crossing Gondogoro-la, Swedish ski mountaineer Fredrik Ericsson finally reached the base camp of K2. This is where the climbing on K2 starts and his home for the next weeks.
Ericsson’s latest attempt is the first stage of his dream of becoming the first person to ski the world’s three highest mountains: Mount Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga. Swedish-born and now Chamonix-based Ericsson is one of the world’s leading high altitude skiers with ski descents of some of the highest mountains on earth, including Peak Somoni, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum 2, Laila Peak and Dhaulagiri. Fredrik, together with American alpine journalist Trey Cook, go to the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan this month to begin preparations for K2, a remarkably steep pyramid with no easy route to the top.
Fredrik Ericsson and Trey Cook were told on arrival in Pakistan that there were unusually deep snow conditions on the Baltoro glacier. The team changed their plan and decided to approach the peak via the Gondoro-la with an attempt on Laila Peak which would enable them to acclimatize and allow the deep snow to consolidate. The team found the deepest snow in the Gondogoro valley in at least 15 years. The team attempted a ski descent of Laila Peak but were turned back 300 meters from the summit by deep, unstable snow. However, Ericsson did enjoy a 1000 vertical meter descent on Laila’s pristine, 45-degree northwest face.

Check out Fredrik Ericsson’s video blog (The trip from Islamabad to Skardu)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heavy Snow For Europe’s Glaciers As More Southern Hemisphere Ski Areas Open

Skiinfo reports that more of Europe’s glacier ski areas are opening and that they, along with the centres already open, are benefitting from heavy snowfalls in recent days. More ski areas have also been opening in the southern hemisphere, where resorts in New Zealand are reporting up to 25cm of new snow so far today. In addition a third US area has announced plans to open its slopes in July. There have been low temperatures and heavy snow on glaciers in the Alps in the past few days. With all three summer ski areas now open in France, this means 10 areas are offering powder snow conditions on their slopes at the moment!
In Austria the Hintertux glacier has reported 45cm (18 inches) of new snow it has a 590m vertical with 20km of pistes open, and a (6.5 foot) base. The Dachstein glacier has a210cm (7 foot) base and is reporting powder conditions. It’s beginner park and super park are both open. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun has also reopened, reporting another 5cm (two inches) of fresh snow on Tuesday, on top of weekend falls and a full 750 metres of skiable vertical. The Mölltal glacier will re-open this Sunday, 27 June at 8am with about 9 km of groomed slopes open daily to 4pm through to the end of August. The centre currently reports up to 3.6m (12 foot) snow depths on the glacier.

Italy will also be up to four summer ski areas open by the weekend when Cervinia re-opens with fresh snow. It will join the still-open Presena glacier above Passo Tonale where just two advanced to expert runs are open, as well as Passo Stelvio and Val Senales, which has reported 20cm of new snow in two falls over the past few days.
In Switzerland it’s still only Zermatt, Europe’s highest ski area, which has 8km of runs open.
In France the ski lifts began running again at the weekend at Tignes on the Grande Motte glacier and in neighbouring Val d’Isere which joined Les 2 Alpes which re-opened a week ago. In Tignes there’s 20km of piste and a giant terrain park open, the snow base is 120cm (four feet) and there’s been another 5cm of fresh snow. The slopes are open from 7:15am to 1pm, and located at an altitude ranging from 3,000 to 3,456 metres. The glacier features 12 ski lifts and can be accessed in seven minutes by the underground funicular. Les 2 Alpes has 80cm (2.6 feet) of snow at 2600m and 2.8m (over 9 feet) up at 3200m with 12 slopes and the terrain park open at one of Europe’s largest summer ski areas.
The only other places to ski in Europe are in Norway, where three glacier ski areas are open at Folgefonn with up to four metres of snow lying, Galdhoppigen with up to five metres of snow lying and Stryn with up to 4.5 metres of snow lying.
In Scotland more than 60 skiers took to the slopes at CairnGorm Mountain on the summer solstice on Monday 21st June 2010 to enjoy some midsummer skiing on the snow still lying there in the Ptarmigan bowl. They were able to take advantage of the two rope tows which had been set up there by the resort’s operators CairnGorm Mountain Ltd. Skiers had travelled from as far away as the Isle of Mull in order to be able to say that they had skied at midsummer at CairnGorm. The 21st was the 147th day of skiing at CairnGorm since the season started on 28 November 2009 and brings to 145,007 the total number of skier days at the resort in what by any account has been an extraordinary season. There were 23 days when skiing was not possible due to high winds or access blocked by snow. Last year 65,000 skiers visited the resort and only three years ago they had their worst season ever with only 38,000 skiers.
In the US the ski season ended a weekend later than expected in Utah when Snowbird decided to open last weekend after all, extending their 2009/10 season to 189 total days. Customers were limited to one ride up the Aerial Tram per day, allowing access to Little Cloud lift and skiing on Regulator Johnson. All additional terrain was closed and classified as "backcountry terrain". However Timberline on Mt Hood in Oregon and Mammoth Mountain in California are still operating their ski lifts and snow slopes. Mammoth, which currently has 2-6 feet (60-180cm) of snow has previously said they’ll stay open for two more weekends to July 4. However another California resort, Boreal, has now said they’ll open for one weekend only, on the 10th/11th July.
Lifts will be open from 10am - 2pm, to enjoy the abundance of snow left from the snowy spring. A full terrain park will be built, accessed via the Castle Peak Quad and lift tickets will cost 20 dollars.
In Canada Whistler’s summer skiing and boarding area on the Blackcomb glacier is now open and the resort is also offering summer snowshoeing and tubing.
In South America Las Leñas (picture attached) is the first resort to open in Argentina has opened with a metre of snow on upper slopes, but the country’s other leading resort, Catedral, says it needs more snow before opening, there’s currently about a foot (30cm) on upper slopes.
Conditions at most ski areas in Chile are looking good after the centres there reported receiving up to two feet (60cm) of snow in the past week, most of it just before the weekend. Chapa Verde has a 60cm (two foot) base and Chapelco 50cm (20 inches). However Valle Nevado and the South American ‘ three Valleys’ that surround it have some of the best conditions on the continent with more than 1.6m (over five feet) of accumulated snowfall to date. Portillo, which delayed its opening by a week, is now on schedule to open this weekend.
In Southern Africa there’s snow sports as well as World Cup football. Africa’s Tiffindell is open for skiing and Afriski in Lesotho has had more new snow taking its base depth to 65cm (2.2 feet) with a 400m long slope open.
In Australia there’s been no new natural snowfall for over a week now but temperatures are continuing to stay quite low so most resorts with snowmaking are making more, and resorts like Falls Creek, Mt Hotham and Perisher have 40 or 50cm (16-20 inches) of snow on snowmaking areas, Thredbo has a little less.
More ski areas have been opening in New Zealand. Treble Cone, which has received excellent pre-season snow, will open tomorrow (Thursday 24 June) with the first lift running at 8.30am. There’ll be Amisfield bubbles for the first 150 skiers on the lifts. Whakapapa is scheduled to open on Saturday 26th June. Of the already-open areas, Turoa has 80cm (nearly three feet) of snow on upper slopes. The Remarkables has 85cm (nearly three feet) and has reported 10cm (four inches) of new snow earlier today. Coronet Peak has the same amount lying and 15cm (six inches) of new snow so far today. But Mt Hutt has trumped both with 25cm (10 inches) of new snow today and a metre (3.3 foot) base. After getting their first turns of the season on Treble Cone’s feeride terrain, skiers and snowboarders can spend the afternoon testing their aerial skills on The AirBag. The AirBag is a supersized, air-filled stunt cushion that provides a soft landing for skiers and snowboarders. The first time it has been seen in on-snow in New Zealand, The Airbag is used throughout Europe to develop the training techniques of Olympic and national aerial teams. The giant 10mx15m cushion will be in full view of the Treble Cone deck and high-speed six seater chairlift for onlookers to check out all the aerial action as some of the region’s top pro freeskiers and snowboarders put it through its paces.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nissan Outdoor Games Jury Members To Be Revealed

Some of the world’s top sportsmen in outdoor sports have made the commitment to take part in a unique film and photo competition, putting their outstanding adrenalin charged skills on the big screen at the Nissan Outdoor Games in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France. For the occasion a prominent jury of six experts in their respective fields of outdoor sports and audiovisuals, has been selected. On Thursday 15 July, the jury will present the Golden Peak Award for best film, the Nissan Prove It Award for best action sequence and the Best Still Photographer Award, with a total prize purse of 32, 000 €.
As the athletes and film producers taking part of the event are of highest calibre, an international professional jury has been invited to ensure expert analysis for the film and photo judging. Brought together especially for the occasion the jury has the outright final say in announcing winners of the 6th summer edition of the Nissan Outdoor Games.

The selected jury of the Nissan Outdoor Games 2010 are:
  • President of the jury, Stefano De Benedetti (ITA), is arenowned extreme skier with several first descents in the Mont-Blanc mountain range in the -80’s and -90’s. Knowing this mountain range perfectly, he even has a couloir named after him on the west face of the Mont-Blanc! De Benedetti is also used to filming in tough outdoor conditions, starring in movies like Steep – afeature documentary on big mountain skiing.
  • Philippe Lebeau (FRA) is the initiator of the project for the 2018 winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Annecy (France). He is also the president of "Club 2018", an initiative for small and medium enterprises in the Rhône-Alpes region to back Annecy's bid to host the Olympics. Lebeau is an enthusiastic sportsman with a background as amateur triathlete and will have an interesting viewpoint as jury member. As director of the communication agency Aerocom, he is a specialist in short film production, an interesting asset for the jury.
  • Legendary skier and one of the pioneers of the freeride skiing movement, Glen Plake (USA) is also a charismatic TV presenter with his own TV show in the US. Plake is a part time resident in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, and has started the prestigious mountain guide training at the ENSA in Chamonix. He has been part of the jury in previous editions of the Nissan Outdoor Games.
  • The talented Swiss Geraldine Fasnacht is counted amongst the world’s top BASE-jumpers, wingsuit flyers, and snowboarders, with impressive first descents on snowboard and wingsuit in Antarctica and Baffin Island. She is also a former winner of the prestigious "Xtreme", a freeride contest in Verbier, Switzerland. Fasnacht knows the Nissan Outdoor Games well as she competed as team member in several previous editions. Before the prize-giving and public screening of the contributing films on stage in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc on July 15th, she will present the latest film from her Antarctica expedition.
  • Dino Raffault from France is an extreme sports events organiser for events like the Speed Flying Pro in Les Arcs and the Line Catcher. Extreme sport film producer and journalist, Dino, who is passionate for the outdoors is also a renowned Wescam operator (helicopter onboard camera) who has been a member of the jury in previous editions of the Nissan Outdoor Games.
  • With several generations of mountain guides in the family, David Ravanel (FRA) from Chamonix is not an exception. He splits his time between mountain guide assignments and professional photography, either in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc region or at a remote expedition. He has been Head of Mountain Rescue in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc valley and is also a serious BASE-jumper.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nissan Outdoor Games Selected Teams

The five international teams selected for the 2010 Nissan Outdoor Games in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France are:

  • Team Finland (Team Golgoht). Winner of the last summer edition and therefore automatically invited to defend their title. A very creative team with an original style both image and sound wise.The Finnish team, GOLGOHT, won the GoldenPeak, the award that given to the best film of the Nissan Outdoor Games 2009 summer edition.

  • Team Austria/Germany (Team Argon). They won the last winter edition of the event. With a highly professional production team combined with creative scenarios and world class athletes, it is a team to look out for!. The Team Argon won the Golden Peak' Award of the Nissan Outdoor Games 2009 winter edition.

  • Team International (Team Goosebumps). Very experienced outdoor athletes and eager newcomers to the event will create an interesting mix led by Swedish action sport photographer Patrik Lindqvist.
  • Team Russia (Team Gravity Workshop). Extreme sports are very popular in Russia and the country produces many top athletes. It will be the second time at the event for this young talented team, who produced a very qualitative film in 2009.

  • Team France (Team name tbc). The film production team will be selected through a contest created by Julbo Eyewear, open for any amateur film producers. The concept of the contest is "you are the director, we provide the actors". French and Swiss cinema schools have also been invited to participate in the contest. The athletes will include local French talents from the Chamonix valley, provided by the organisation, as well as Julbo’s pro team athletes.

All teams accepted the invitation from the organisers to challenge themselves and create a 5-minute film uniting 5 outdoor sports activities (kayaking, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding & hang gliding; and BASE-jumping & wingsuit flying) in only a week (from Thursday 8 to Wednesday 14 July) around the Mont-Blanc, using their own equipment (16mm cameras, video-cameras, computers, editing equipment). An international jury is appointed in order to ensure expert analysis for the film judging.Films will be judged on sporting performance, photography, originality of screenplay, sound and editing, to win the awards for the 2010 edition. A Nissan vehicle is made available to each team to help them get to the most spectacular "spots". The prize giving ceremony will take place at the centre of Chamonix, Thursday 15 July at 8 pm, showing all the films and photos on a giant screen set up above the stage a total prize purse of 32 000 € will be awarded to the teams.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nissan Outdoor Games moves to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

The Nissan Outdoor Games is back for its 6th consecutive summer edition. This year, the five teams will head to the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley to create a high quality short film and still photo production in only one week. The Nissan Outdoor Games is the only event of its kind bringing together the world’s best athletes in extreme sports with the top of the line filmmakers and photographers. Their productions are shown to the public on a giant screen in the heart of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc on July 15.
The world elite of kayakers, climbers, mountain bikers, paragliders, and BASEjumpers will once again re-unite in five teams with a top class film and photo crew to create a five minute film of highest quality, capturing the spectacle of outdoor sport in its natural environment. 30 000 € prize money is at stake to win the "Golden Peak Award" for the best film, the "Prove It Award" for the best sport sequence, and the "Best Still Photo Award", announced by an appointed jury on July 15.
The originality of the event; uniting top level athletes in various extreme sports disciplines, with photographers and filmmakers, gives a highly creative atmosphere where interesting development and progress is seen within the sports as well as within the art of filmmaking in an outdoor environment.
Due to the extraordinary backdrop of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, the Mecca of action sports, the film festival has found the perfect venue for its sixth edition.Chamonix-Mont-Blanc has already twice hosted the winter version of the Nissan Outdoor Games in 2009 and 2008.
The event is part of the Nissan Sports Adventure programme.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dozens Of Ski Areas Open In Northern And Southern Hemispheres

Skiinfo reports that Les 2 Alpes is the first of France’s three ski areas that still offer summer glacier skiing and boarding to open for the season, today Wednesday, June 16th. The lifts open from 7.15am daily until the 28th August, the resorts there is 2.4m (eight feet) of snow lying on the glacier. The resort’s summer ski area, one of Europe’s largest, covers 200 hectares and has eight runs and a large snow park complete with two half pipes and a superpipe located between 2900 and 3600m of altitude. The other two glacier summer ski areas still operating since Alpe d’Huez, La Plagne and Val Thorens all stopped offering summer snow sports in recent years, are neighbours Tignes and Val d’Isere which will both open within days of Les 2 Alpes for their summer seasons. So France is open for skiing again after six weeks when it was the only one of the big four Alpine ski nations to not offer snow sports. Glacier ski resorts in Austria, Italy and Switzerland remain open.
The Dachstein glacier in southern Austria has re-opened for summer skiing this weekend, two weeks later than planned. A technical issue following the replacement of the steel cable, for the first time since the lift was installed in 1969, on the Dachstein access cable car led to the postponed opening. As a gesture of good will operators the Planai-Hochwurzen-Railways decided to lower season-ticket prices. The area’s popular Horsefeathers Superpark has now opened however, with a new design for summer 2010b and is reported by the operators to be in perfect shape. New features include a row of four rails and a line of new boxes designed for beginners and intermediates. Following Stubai’s closure at the weekend, all other Austrian glaciers are now closed except Tux which has 25km of runs to enjoy on a 295cm (10 foot) deep snow pack with nine lifts operating. The Kitsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun and the Molltal glacier will both re-open in the next few weeks.
Three glacier ski areas are now open in Italy following the re-opening of Val Senales at the weekend. It joins Passo Stelvio and the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale, which had one red and one black run open at the weekend but it likely to close in the near future. However Cervinia will re-open a week on Saturday for summer skiing and boarding keeping the Italian choices up at three. Val Senales, in Italy’s South Tyrol, opened its Nitro Snowpark for the summer season on Saturday with a special opening party including barbecue BBQ, beer and "Tirolerpfeif".
Events coming up during the six-week summer snow season includes Girls Weekend on the 25th-26th June , a Rookie Camp for children from July 23rd to 10th and a ‘Koolt Action Weekend’ with Skate/Snow/BMX and soccer and beach volleyball tournaments.
In Switzerland only Zermatt is open still, with Europe’s highest lifts in operation touching 3,900m.

In Northern Europe Scotland’s Cairngorm and Finland’s Ruka finally ended their long seasons last week leaving only Norway with ski slopes open on its three glaciers of Folgefonn, Galdhoppigen and Stryn.
In surprise news a second Canadian resort will be joining Whistler for snow sports next weekend. The Blackcomb glacier re-opens for summer snow sports from June 19th through to July 25th, but over on Vancouver Island, Mount Washington (picture attached) has also announced it will re-open its snow slopes, at least for the weekend of June19th/20th, at the start of its summer season. Mount Washington was top of the world snowfall table for most of last winter with over 6 metres (20 feet) lying and the resort, which was the main pre-Olympics training base for international teams immediately before the Winter games in February, had over 15m (approximately 50 feet) of snow through the season. It is now trying to clear snow that’s still lying deep on the higher mountain bike tracks ready for the summer season, but has decided to offer summer skiing for the first time in its 32 year history too. "The running joke at the end of the winter season at Mount Washington was that the snow would last until June and you would be able to ski and snowboard the opening day of summer operations. Joking aside, Mount Washington is announcing it will indeed open for skiing on the first weekend of summer", said resort spokesperson Brent Curtain. "We will be loading skiers and boarders onto the Eagle Express from 11am to 4pm on opening weekend", says Don Sharpe, Director of Business Operations at the resort. "Anybody wanting to head up for summer turns can do it for a special $25 lift ticket. As an added bonus, dads can ski or board for $10 on Father’s Day when they head up the lift with their child". Linton’s Loop will be the chosen run for the summer skiing weekend. "Imagine telling your friends and family across the country that you skied on Vancouver Island on the first day of summer", adds Curtain. "It really is unbelievable". Mount Washington Alpine Resort is located 30 minutes above The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. WestJet, Central Mountain Air and Pacific Coastal Airlines service the Comox Valley Airport (YQQ).
In the USA Snowbird decided to end their season after last weekend due to a rapidly melting snowpack, leaving only Mammoth in California and the year-round Timberline ski area in Oregon open.
In the southern hemisphere fresh snow in Australia, Lesotho and New Zealand has led to more resorts opening.
Fresh snow across Australia’s ski areas helped get the season off to a positive start at the weekend when the country’s resorts began opening for winter 2010. Temperatures have been low for the best part of a month allowing for plenty of pre-season snowfall and with 10-15cm (4-6 inches) of natural snowfall just before the resorts were scheduled to open, it’s been a verey good start to the seadon. Perisher in New South Wales was the first to open, on Friday, reporting 10cm of new snow on a base the resort had been building for over a month with their snowmaking equipment. Mt Buller has four lifts open with the resort’s Bourke Street run is in good shape. Mt Hotham has three lifts operating and Thredbo six lifts, four runs and a basic terrain park. Falls Creek has 10cm (four inches) of snow lying too, and three lifts running.
In New Zealand conditions are some of the best in the southern hemisphere with Mt Hutt the second resort to open last weekend, a week after Coronet Peak and most of the country’s other skiu areas opening over the next two weekends. Most have at least a metre (3.3 feet) of snow lying ready for a good start to the season.
In South America more resorts are opening too. In Chile one of the claimant’s to the continent’s largest ski areas, the "Three Valleys of South America" including the linked ski areas of El Colorado and Valle Nevado is now open with more snow expected in the next few days. Portillo has delayed plan to open on Saturday (19th) by a week to the 26th as the 40cm of snow lying at present is not enough apparently. Resorts in Argentina are yet to open but expect to start doiing so shortly.
In Southern Africa it’s all white at Tiffindell in South Africa and at Afriski in Lesotho. 200m of the main slope is open at the latter where there’s 50cm (20 inch) deep snow lying and snowmaking is on-going thanks to low temperatures.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Colorado Reports Slight Increase In Visitors

Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) announced at its 47th Annual Meeting (June 9-10), that its 22 member resorts hosted an estimated 6.74 million skier visits during the 2009-10 ski season. This represents an increase of 0.4 percent, or approximately 29,000 skier visits, compared to last season's final numbers.
"We're pleased visitation is up even if only by a nose", explained Melanie Mills, President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA. "We held our own in attracting the destination skier, and even with the challenges the travel industry still faces, we found that several indicators are moving in the right direction".
Visitation from Front Range and other in-state skiers was down slightly, while visitation by out of state and international guests increased. "CSCUSA and our members have had a strong presence in a diverse array of international markets for several years and we are really seeing those efforts rewarded with growth in international visits", explained Mills. International visits to CSCUSA members were up approximately 6.5 percent, ahead of the one percent gain in international visits seen by other Rocky Mountain region resorts.
Ski school business was healthy at many resorts this season. Preliminary data shows an increase in overall lesson volume with a five percent increase in children's lessons specifically.
Overall snow totals across the state were a contributing factor to this season's visitation patterns. Snowfall amounts were down substantially, by 26 percent compared to the 2008-09 season, and down 26 percent compared to the 10-year average. "Snow always plays a role in skier visits, especially with our in-state guests", continued Mills. "And while some resorts saw near record amounts of snow, others relied on their expert snow maintenance staffs to provide a great product all season long".
The strong Colorado brand carried momentum through the season to a solid finish this spring. Skier visits were up a bit at the beginning of the season but softened in the middle. The season ended with a robust spring and showed signs of visitation getting back on track. "Starting March 1, visitation rallied, growing by five percent over the previous year during that period. This was fueled by heavy spring snows and a favorably-timed Easter", said Mills.
Total Colorado skier visits for the 2009-10 season, including non-member resorts (in 2008 Vail Resorts withdraws from the trade group), are once again approaching the 12 million visit threshold, ending the year at 11.86 million. Total Colorado skier visits are up by 0.8 percent compared to last season. On a national level, skier visits overall are up 4.2 percent with the Rocky Mountain region seeing an increase of 3.4 percent.
Skier visits are the metric used to track participation in skiing and snowboarding. A skier visit represents a person participating in the sport of skiing or snowboarding for any part of one day at a mountain resort.
In a dramatic rebound from the previous season, the U.S. ski industry recorded 59.7 million visits, the second best season ever, according to the preliminary 2009/10 Kottke National End of Season Survey. In spite of continued pressures from a weak economy and without the catalyst of an exceptional snow year, skier visits this season increased by 4.2 percent, only 1.2 percent below the all time record of 60.5 million visits achieved in 2007/08.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Southern Hemisphere Ski Season Underway

Skiinfo reports that the number of ski areas open worldwide continues to rise despite more areas closing for the season in Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. That’s because more the southern hemisphere’s ski season has kicked off at resorts in Chile and New Zealand and next week Australia, Canada and France will be opening ski areas too.

There are currently just six glaciers open for snow sports in the Alps however. In Austria the Dachstein glacier, which was due to have opened for summer skiing a fortnight ago, hopes to finally do so this weekend. The delay has been caused by problems on lift infrastructure upgrading work which has taken longer tha expected, partly die to bad weather (snow). The ski area has reduced season ticket prices to compensate disappointed skiers and boarders. The Kitsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun is also briefly closed for a few week annual maintenance and the Molltral glacier will not re-open until the 27th of June. However several other Austrian glaciers are still open, if, in the case of Kaunertal and Stubai, not for long. The ski area at Kaunertal which has received 13cm (5 inches) of new snow in the past week closes for the season on Sunday, with a re-opening party already announced for October 15th-17th, book now! The Stubai glacier also closes this Sunday, June 13, it has a 170cm base and 5 runs open, served by four lifts. So only the Tux glacier is staying open for good at the moment. It has 25km of runs to enjoy on a 295cm (10 foot) deep snow pack with nine lifts operating.
Elsewhere in the Alps Passo Stelvio is open in Italy as is the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale, but one of the two red runs that was open has now closed leaving just one red and one black run to enjoy. Val Senales opens this Saturday and Cervinia a fortnight later on the 26th.
In Switzerland Europe’s highest lifts on Zermatt are operational at the famous resport’s large summer ski area. It appears to be the only summer ski area currently open in the country as the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz has now closed.
In France the glaciers at Les Deux Alpes, Tignes and Val d’Isere are scheduled to begin their summer ski season from the middle of next week. Les Deux Alpes will open first next Wednesday 16th of June and stay open to Saturday 28th August 2010. The glacier slopes are ope from 7.15am to 1.30pm daily and from resort level at 1500 m, it takes about 30 minutes to reach Europe's largest skiable glacier (3200m-3600m). There are 200 skiable hectares on the glacier served by 11 ski lifts. On the snow you’ll find 11 runs compriing a red run, eight blue runs, two green runs and a large snowpark with two half-pipes, hips quarters, boarder-cross, grind bars and jump modules plus music and barbecue. In Tignes the glacier will open from Sasturday 19th June to Sunday 29th August 2010 from 7.15am to 1pm daily. The Tignes Glacier rises from 2700m to 3600m and boasts 20km of ski runs served by 12 lifts and 750m of vertical. There’s a snow park and an ice grotto not to mention having breathtaking views. Access to the glacier by funicular only takes seven minutes.
In Northern Europe Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountain remains open at weekends although snow cover is finally reported to be getting patchy.
In Scandinavia Sweden’s Arctic-circle ski area of Riksgransen has now closed and so Norway’s three open glacier areas of Folgefonn, Galdhoppigen and Stryn are the best bets. Finland’s Ruka still has its Saarua summer ski slope open until this weekend however, June 13th is the last day of the Finnish ski season.
In North America two ski areas are currently open full time in the US, and one at weekends. There are no lift-served ski slopes open in Canada, but that will change next week when Whistler’s Blackcomb glacier re-opens for a summer ski season on Saturday 19th June.
The last ski area still open for the 2009-10 season in Colorado, Arapahoe Basin, closed at the weekend. Snowbird in Utah however is open for at least one more weekend and possibly longer. It hasn’t had any fresh snow recently but has 2.3m (90 inches) of snow lying at mid mountain and recently passed the 600 inches (15 metres) of snow accumulated this season in total. The total is 603 inches. In California Mammoth Mountain still has the best part of a month of its long season left, it’s open daily and plans to remain so until at least the US Independence day, July 4th. It most recently received five inches (13cm) of new snow on May 27th and currently has a 4 – 7 foot (1.2 – 2.1m) of snow. America’s near year-round ski centre of Timberline on Mt Hood in Oregon is the other open ski area in North America. Its lifts. Terrain park and pipe are all open. There’s a 131inch (3.25m) base at present.
The southern hemisphere’s 2010 ski season is under way with Coronet Peak in New Zealand opening on Saturday, June 5th with a 50cm (20 inch) base including 15cm (six inches) of new snow that fell on Tuesday. Conditions are actually looking good across the country and most of New Zealand’s resorts will open in the next three weeks. First Tracks were reported at Treble Cone (picture attached) last week, for those prepared to hike up, with 30cm of new snow, and a further 25cm (10 inches) was reported there yesterday (Tuesday 8th June). The Remarkables currently has a 60cm (2 foot) base although no plans to open for another two weeks. Mt Hutt, with a full one metre (3.3 foot) base, will open next Saturday June 12th. Cardrona and Mt Ruapehu will open later this month. Ski Dobson possibly has the deepest base in the southern hemisphere at preset with 1.3m, (4.3 feet) but it will not open until the weekend on June 20/21 and full-time from the following weekend.
In Australia most resorts had some natural snow last month and currently have low temperatures and are able to commence snowmaking. Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Thredbo and Perisher are all snowmaking at the moment ahead of opening in the next few weeks.
In South Africa the country’s only ski area of Tiffindell has a snow covering and with low temperatures continuing should be able to open quite soon. The same is true of Afriski in neighbouring Lesotho which had hoped to open on June 1st.
In South America many ski areas are reporting cold temperatures and snow but none are so far saying they have opened. Chile’s Valle Nevado will be opening shortly, neighbouring El Colorado (Farrellones) on June 11 and Portillo in two weeks on the 19th. In Argentina Las Leñas reports 4cm of snow remains on the tops of the mountains following a big 30cm (12 inch) fall last month.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FIS wants four events included to 2014 Olympic Games

The 47th International Ski Congress in Antalya (TUR) was the centennial International Ski Congress, taking place 100 years after the very first International Ski Congress which was held on 18th February 1910 in Christiania (later known as Oslo), Norway. The delegates at the 2010 FIS Congress were conscious of the importance of their decisions for the future direction and development of the international ski sports which now embark on their second century.
Delegates at the FIS Congress decided to advance four events (ski halfpipe, women’s ski jumping, and snowboarding slopestyle and team snowboardcross) toward possible inclusion in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Congress unanimously supported the proposal to submit a request to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include Freestyle half-pipe on the program of the Olympic Winter Games Freestyle half-pipe has been part of the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Championships since 2005. FIS will now propose Freestyle half-pipe together with ladies' Ski Jumping and the Alpine Nations' Team Event, which will - as per a decision of the FIS Congress 2006 in Vilamoura (POR) - be resubmitted to the IOC.
Snowboard slopestyle and team snowboard cross were also unanimously adopted on the program of the FIS Snowboard World Championships, whilst the submission of slopestyle to the IOC was also discussed.
A multi-stage competition in Cross-Country Skiing, similar to the annual FIS Tour de Ski, was accepted to be carried out as a World Championship, to take place every four years. The first edition will take place as soon as the organizational aspects are clarified (2012 or 2016).
The slalom and giant slalom competitions at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will feature 60 starters in the 2nd run after a closely contested vote. A maximum of 100 starters with all entered nations represented may participate in the first run after a qualification race.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Arne Backstrom dies at 29 after a big mountain fall in the Peruvian Andes

According to Freeskier Magazine and the Sierra Sun newspaper, freeskier Arne Backstrom, younger brother of Ingrid Backstrom, passed away yesterday after a fall in Peru. Backstrom was on a ski mountaineering trip with Sweetgrass Productions when the accident took place. He was 29.
Sources close to the family say that Backstrom and his team were in South America to attempt a descent of the southeast face of Artesonraju, a 5,999 meter peak in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range a part of the Peruvian Andes. The accident, however, took place during an acclimation day on a smaller sub-peak. On the trip were Arne, Kip Garre, Dave Rosenbarger and Jamie Laidlaw -- all experienced ski mountaineers.
Backstrom, a rising star on the competitive big mountain scene, gained momentum this past season with a number of breakout performances in contests and on camera. In addition to winning the McConkey Cup and becoming the '09/10 Freeskiing World Tour champion, he filmed his second straight segment with Warren Miller Entertainment and a part with Matchstick Productions.
"It's definitely sad ... it's one of those things where it's hard to believe", said Squaw Valley skier and Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso. "It just goes to show you how much passion these guys have; they're out there every day pushing the limits. My heart goes out to the Backstrom family".
"Skiing is a beautiful way to travel in alpine terrain. It provides access to amazing places while leaving only a fleeting trail and allows one to interact with a huge amount of terrain in a short period of time. It allows effortless speed and grace over what would otherwise be scarcely navigable terrain. It's a simple game of resisting and manipulating gravity, and is made possible by the most vital of substances. I am continually amazed and always grateful that this crazy sport exists and has progressed to its current state. It should be encouraging to all that the smoothest, best skiers on the mountain are almost always the older guys and gals who have perfected the art of matching speed and turn shape with snow and terrain. With the right amount of power and control, skiing is low impact, a great workout, and can be practiced for a lifetime" (Arne Backstrom, 1980-2010).

Arne Backstrom winning run from the 2010 Freeskiing World Tour comp in Revelstoke BC (January, 2010)

Warren Miller Ski Films - Shoots at Heavenly with Arne Backstrom (February, 2010)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vancouver 2010 Debrief To Begin Next Week

The official debriefing of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will get underway next week in the future Olympic winter host city of Sochi. Organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the debrief will see the staff of the Vancouver 2010 Organising Committee (VANOC) sharing their knowledge and experience with representatives from London 2012, Sochi 2014, Rio 2016 and the three applicant cities for the Games in 2018 (Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang). This, its sixth edition, will continue the IOC’s commitment to ensuring that future Games organisers are able to benefit from the experience and lessons of past organisers by providing a forum for the exchange of Games-related knowledge.
The debrief will be split into three different parts. The first part, of three days from 3 to 5 June, will focus exclusively on the technological aspects of the Games in Vancouver. The second part, from 7 to 10 June, will look at all other aspects of the Games organisation and will include a combination of plenary sessions, functional area workshops and sessions that look at the needs of the different Games stakeholders. The final element of the debrief will be a special extension to the programme on 11 June, specifically for workshops devoted to the Paralympic Games.
The debrief sessions will look at all manner of Games-related subjects, including areas such as athlete services, the environment, sustainability, spectator experience, press operations, ceremonies, transport and accommodation. These subjects amongst a host of others will allow future organisers to gain a better understanding of how the Vancouver team operated in these areas, and how they might be able to adapt those lessons to their own Games context.
The Vancouver 2010 Debrief is a key part of a much larger transfer of knowledge programme run by the IOC called Olympic Games Knowledge Management (OGKM). Set up during the preparations for the Sydney Games in 2000, OGKM is an integrated platform of services and documentation which assists Games organisers in their preparations; lets them evaluate their progress and success; and helps to define the future of the Games. The OGKM programme includes a number of different tools and services that organisers can draw upon, and these include a Games observer programme, expert workshops, technical manuals, a Games evaluation process, an extranet and a secondee programme. OGKM aims to help bid cities and Organising Committees develop their own vision and understand how a host city and its citizens can benefit from the long-lasting impact of the Games, while managing the opportunities and risks that such an event produces.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vail will host the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships

Beaver Creek/Vail (Colorado, USA) will host the 2015 World Championships. The announcement took place today at the Sheraton Voyager Antalya Hotel, Resort & Spa at ca. 19:00 local time (18.00 CET).
Vail previously hosted the event in 1989 and 1999, won out over St. Moritz, Switzerland, which hosted the event in 2003, and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, host of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Vail won in a first round decision (Vail 8 votes, Cortina 4 votes, St Moritz 3 votes).
The live election feed on the Ski Federation's website said Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz was thanking everyone who contributed to the bid just moments after the announcement.
"Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts are honored to be selected as the hosts for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships by the International Ski Federation", said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. "Our resorts and the Vail Valley have demonstrated a meaningful commitment to the sport of ski racing producing the best competitions in the world. We are thrilled to focus international attention on our iconic slopes and community during the winter of 2015. We are especially appreciative of the efforts put forth by Ceil Folz and the Vail Valley Foundation in securing this nomination and we are thankful to the delegates who cast their votes in favor of bringing the 2015 Championships to Vail and Beaver Creek".
"!!! I'm so excited!!!! Congrats to everyone in Vail and for all of your hard work!", local hero Lindsey Vonn posted on her Facebook Fan page.
Plans for the 2015 World Championships will begin immediately as World Cup racing action returns to the Vail Valley Dec. 3-5, 2010 for the Men's Birds of Prey World Cup.
The U.S. has hosted the event three other times, including Aspen's hosting the event in 1950.
The election took place during the FIS 47th International Ski Congress in Antalya (TUR).The 2010 Congress celebrates the 100th anniversary of the very first International Ski Congress that was held in Christiania (later renamed Oslo), on 18th February 1910.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ski Areas In Eight More Countries Ready To Open In June As Southern Hemisphere Reports First Turns Of Winter

Skiinfo reports that June will sees ski areas open in the southern hemisphere countries of Argentina, Australia, Chile, Lesotho, New Zealand and South Africa while glacier ski resorts will re-open for the summer in Canada and France where currently no ski areas are known to be open. These hundred odd ski areas in eight countries will join the 20 or so still going in 11 countries in the northern hemisphere since 2009 – located in Austria, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. In the southern hemisphere snow is already falling and resorts are making snow. In New Zealand, Treble Cone (picture attached) reported 35cm (14 inches) of new snow this morning and those prepared to hike up ahead of the resort’s official opening later this month were able to enjoy the powder. The trend in open resorts is already up with three glacier areas in Austria, Italy and Norway opening at the weekend.
In the northern hemisphere Austria seems to be the place the ski this week with glacier ski areas reporting up to 40cm (16 inches) of new snow and the Dachstein Glacier in southern Austriare-opening for snow sports at the weekend, unveiling its improved Horsefeathers Superpark for the summer snow season.The Kaunertal, Stubai and Tux glaciers are also open and have reported substantial new snow too. Dachstein’s improved park offers a new three-boxes-line and freestylers can now slide down up to four rails in a line. On top of the two existing rails, an 11-meter down rail and a 14 metre double kinked rail are being added. Instead of the two Corners, a brand-new medium boxes line has been added and the rails are constructed as double piped rails. "We’ll position the rails a bit lower so that also beginners can try their first tricks on real metal", said Bernd Mandlberger.
Elsewhere in the Alps a third ski area – Passo Stelvio, has joined the Presena Glacier and Val Senales, open in Italy.
In Switzerland Europe’s highest slopes above Zermatt, remain open and there are mixed signals coming from the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz with part of the official site showing the centre as open but clicking on it leading to a more detailed page which seems to indicate it has closed.
There are no ski areas currently open in France although there’s plenty of high altitude ski touring going on above resorts like Chamonix. The country’s three remaining summer ski areas - Les 2 Alpes, Tignes and Val d’Isere begin opening in three week’s time.
In Northern Europe they’re still skiing at Riksgransen in the Swedish Arctic Circle where there’s now24 hour daylight, at Ruke in Finland and on Norway’s three glacier areas of Folgefonn, Galdhoppigen and Stryn – the latter recently opened.
Meanwhile Cairngorm Mountain above Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands has announced plans to open for the first weekend of June, next Saturday 5th/6th and on weekends through June, conditions permitting . On June 21st Northern Scotland celebrates the start of summer with near-24 hour daylight, thanks to the region’s northerly latitude. The ski area is enjoying a record breaking year approaching eight months of near continual operation (all closures due to too much snow, extreme weather or more recently too few visitors, rather than any lack of snow). There was more fresh snow last week with temperatures hovering around zero at the top of the slopes. The centre has been open at weekends through May and was open on English Bank Holiday May 31st. The Ptarmigan lift is running and the train makes mid-station stops if it is possible to ski to the middle using the gunbarrel. The terrain park and the sledge park are open. Opening hours are from 10am - 4pm and snowsports tickets will be available for the whole day or for 3 hour sessions.
In North America the season continues as last week at five US ski areas – Mammoth Mountain in California, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado (now in its last week),Snowbird in Utah and Timberline in Oregon. However three areas opened at the weekend to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday in the US. On the West Coast Donner Summit and Squaw Valley ski areas re-opened due primarily to fresh snow falling last week. On the East Coast, Stowe in Vermont took a different approach and unveiled a huge pile of snow it had stockpiled through the winter to use for one off ‘Last Trick’ Rail Jam over Memorial Day weekend. The giant pile of snow, formerly the resort’s halfpipe, provided the venue for Stowe’s park crew to set up the rails, boxes and jumps for one more jam session. The event was open to all skiers, snowboarders and spectators with music provided and prizes and giveaways for participants to add to the mood. Mammoth Mountain announced five inches (12cm) of new snow fell during a storm just before last weekend.
There are no ski areas known to be open in Canada at present although Whistler Blackcomb is due to reopen shortly for its summer glacier ski and board season.
In the southern hemisphere there’s been natural snowfall in New Zealand where the 2010 ski season is only weeks away. Resorts have begun snowmaking too. The team at Turoa on Mt Ruapehu spent much of Monday morning blowing snow down on the meadow with the snow making crews both there and at the mountain’s other ski area, Whakapapa, primed and ready to get more snow on the ground whenever conditions will allow it. There has been snow throughout the day and more in the forecast so mother nature is doing her bit to help out too. Things are currently on track for the projected opening dates of the 19th of June for Turoa and Whakapapa following one week later on the 26th of June.
There’s been less fresh snow in Australia but temperatures have been low enough for snowmaking to begin at Perisher ski resort, the country’s largest.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ericsson to Attempt To Ski K2 Again

Swedish ski mountaineer Fredrik Ericsson has announced he will attempt a complete ski descent of K2 again this summer, a year after his first attempt was curtailed by the death of his partner on the trip, Italian Michele Fait, who fell to his death while skiing down from K2's C2 on the SSE spur.
Ericsson’s latest attempt is the first stage of his dream of becoming the first person to ski the world’s three highest mountains: Mount Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga. Swedish-born and now Chamonix-based Ericsson is one of the world’s leading high altitude skiers with ski descents of some of the highest mountains on earth, including Peak Somoni, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum 2, Laila Peak and Dhaulagiri. "I have already skied on five mountains higher than 8000 meters. During these adventures I gained critical experience that will apply towards my goal of skiing the absolute highest. The project spans two years and I will try to ski the three highest mountains in the world: K2 (8612m) this summer, Mount Everest (8850m) in autumn 2010, and Kangchenjunga (8586m) in autumn 2011", says Fredrik.
Fredrik, together with American alpine journalist Trey Cook, go to the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan this month to begin preparations for K2, a remarkably steep pyramid with no easy route to the top. Climbing the mountain is further complicated by unusually severe and unpredictable weather systems.
K2 was first climbed in 1954 by the Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli. Since then, The Savage Mountain – as it has come to be called due to the extraordinarily high number of deaths on the mountain – has been climbed on 10 different routes and only around 200 people have summited. Although several of the world’s best ski mountaineers have tried no one has ever made a complete ski descent from the summit of K2.
After a rough, two-week journey by plane, jeep and on foot the team will arrive on the Godwin-Austen glacier at the foot of K2 where they will set up base camp at an altitude of 5,100 meters. Over the next four weeks they will undertake several acclimatization climbs in order to prepare for the enormous challenge. Mid-July will see the team start the grueling climb to the top of K2. "We will not use supplemental oxygen or high-altitude porters. In addition to the equipment that all climbers carry I’ll also be carrying my ski equipment and wearing ski touring boots which are not nearly as warm, comfortable or functional as climbing boots. This makes the climb much more challenging but also more rewarding", says Fredrik.
Ericsson and Cook plan to climb the south-southeast ridge, a serious, 3500-vertical-meter route featuring extremely strenuous, high-altitude climbing. During the weeks leading to their final push the team will methodically move higher and higher up the mountain while their bodies and minds grow accustomed to the debilitating hardships of climbing at such altitude. When the team is fully acclimatized, the two will need four days to get from base camp to the summit, spending three nights in inhospitable, bone-chilling, high-altitude camps on the way.
"On the final day of our summit push we will start climbing from our 8000 meter camp at midnight and I believe it will take about 12 hours of climbing above 8000 meters to reach the top", says Fredrik. At this extreme altitude, known as The Death Zone, the body only takes in one-third as much oxygen as sea level and inevitably deteriorates above that altitude.
The ski descent, which is the ultimate goal of the two-month expedition, is expected to take five hours. The descent from the summit all the way to base camp has a vertical drop of almost 3500 meters and has very steep sections of up to 50 degrees.
"To ski at 8000 meters is very strenuous. I can only manage to make a few turns before I have to stop and rest. After four to five turns I’m as exhausted as after skiing 1000 vertical meters in the Alps", says Ericsson.

Extreme skiers Fredrik Ericsson and Jörgen Aamot attempting to ski the world's 3rd highest mountain, Kangchenjunga (8586m) in Nepal, 2008.