Welcome to the first edition of Best Ski News 2014. We intend to post a weekly ski news article summarising the world of skiing throughout the season. We appreciate that is is still 2013 but as this news really applies to the 2014 season we have welcomed in the new year a little early…..
In this edition of Best Ski News we talk about snow and how there is lots of it already and introduce new ski areas that have opened for the 2014 season. We touch upon British success in Telemark skiing and tantalise your taste buds with a cook and ski holiday. We will let you know which is the best ski festival and introduce Yak wool. Enjoy!
It’s one of the best starts to the ski season this century with large pre-season snowfalls in the Alps, the Dolomites, the Pyrenees and the Rockies and any other of the world’s ski regions too.
Many of the world’s top resorts including Aspen, Baqueira Beret, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Courchevel, Kitzbuhel and Whistler – even Cairngorn in Scotland – opened early last month to take advantage of the conditions. Those lucky enough to get to the slopes early were able to enjoy the snow with up to a foot (30cm) falling in 24 hours at some resorts. Val Thorens opened a few days early for resorts to test their slopes.
As we enter December the picture remains good with a wave of heavy snow bringing 30-60cm of fresh snow to many areas in Western North America during the first week of the month, giving amazing powder conditions. More heavy snow has fallen in the Eastern Alps over Austria too.
Only Scandinavia has had a bit of a ‘slow start’ to this 2014 Olympic season with warmer than average November temperatures and limited snowfalls, but it is catching up now. There have also been big snowfalls reported in Eastern Europe where the ski season is beginning this weekend or next.
Quite a number of exciting new lift projects are due to open over the next 4 – 8 weeks creating larger ski areas or linking two areas together for the first time.
The most publicised has been the new ArlbergJet lift connection between Lech and a neighbouring smaller ski area shared by the villages of Schrocken and Warth. This long-planned link will connect 340km of runs on one lift pass, which includes St Anton (a bus ride from Lech), making it one of the biggest in the world.
At Ischgl the resort has invested €18.5 million (approximately £15.6m) on the spectacular new Piz Val Gronda cable car which opens up a huge 100 hectare area of freeride skiing and boarding. It is the first terrain extension at the Tirolean resort in several decades it is also the world first aerial tramway with heated seats. Other connections in Austria will see the skiing of St Johann in Pongau and Flachau connected above the town of Wagrain with a new cable car spanning the valley.
In Switzerland the resorts of Arosa and Lenzerheide are now connected by ski lifts. Lenzerheide has two thirds of the ‘new’ area’s terrain of around 225km of piste, but Arosa has a reputation for being high-altitude and snow-sure so its a great combination. The new area is one of the biggest in Switzerland.
Also in Switzerland the freeriding resorts of Grimentz and Zinal will be linked by a cable car. Plus a new gondola has been built near Verbier in the 4 Valleys. It will improve Verbier’s connection to one of its outlying regions dramatically, cutting a convoluted 45 minute trip down to just a few minutes on the new gondola.
Telemark is the oldest form of downhill skiing, invented in Norway in the 1860s, nearly 40 years before the modern ‘Alpine’ technique was created. But despite regaining popularity in recent decades, it still isn’t in the Olympics, which could be a shame for Britain as we just had our first ever podium.
Jasmin Taylor took silver in the opening World Cup Parallel Sprint race of the 2013/14 season last week in Tux, Austria, making her the first ever Brit to medal at the highest level in this challenging winter sport discipline.
“Swiss Telemark veteran and reigning World Champion, Amelie Reymond took the first run with only a couple of ski lengths in it…” said British Team Manager and FIS Telemark Chairman, Andrew Clarke, “In the second run Jasmin was relentless and skated the last 100m hard. Unfortunately it was not enough to win but it was more than enough to give Jasmin her first Senior World Cup podium and put British Telemark firmly on the map!”
Anyone who has got hooked on Masterchef or the Great British Bake off whilst waiting for the ski season to begin will be delighted to hear that the The Relais & Châteaux Hotel Rosengarten in Kirchberg (rosengarten-taxacher.com) is offering a master class with the most highly rated Austrian chef Simon Taxacher. The course is located close to the slopes in the Kitzbühel Alps meaning you can have a cook and ski holiday all in one.
Taxacher’s restaurant has been awarded 4 toques and 19 points by the 2014 Gault Millau guide – the Germanic equivalent of a whole stack of Michelin stars. The cookery course takes place in the hotel’s top floor cooking studio which has glorious views along with superb facilities.
The course costs €619 per person, including a one day taster course and takes place on 15 December, 12 January and 9 February this season. The package includes a welcome drink and five course lunch at the cookery school, accompanied with corresponding wines.
The Snowbombing Festival (snowbombing.com) is one of the oldest and biggest in the Alps, attracting big name performers to Mayrhofen. The Prodigy, Superstar DJs, The Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada are topping the line up this year which runs from 7th-12th April 2014. Prices start at £219 for accommodation and all entertainment, but not travel.
Snowbombing now has added kudos having been voted ‘Best Overseas Festival’ at the UK Festival Awards for the second time in four years. Beating a shortlist that included Exit Festival (Serbia), Tomorrowland (Belgium) and Outlook (Croatia). Being voted the best overseas festival in our books means it is also the best ski festival so well done Snowbombing!
It wouldn’t be the best ski news without considering the time honoured question….. Which is better for your thermal layers – yak’s wool or merino wool?
Well actually a British company called Kora™ (kora.net) have developed the first technical base layer using (ethically-sourced) yak wool and they believe it’s better than the widely used merino.
“With a soft-handle, technical qualities and an ethical harvesting process, kora™ has managed to produce performance base-layer clothing from Yak-wool and, in tests, this has surpassed its merino equivalents,” said a company statement.
It’s a popular misconception that yak’s wool is coarse when in fact it’s yak’s hair that is. The animal grows an inner layer of fine wool each year to insulate against the cold which is very soft. Now Kora have made tops and leggings, priced at £95 to £105 per item, available in a range of colours for men and women.
Kora’s ‘Hima-Layer™’ (get it?) fabric was found to be 40% warmer than merino wool weight for weight and is very breathable, having 66% greater air permeability than merino wool according to Kora.
If you enjoyed week 1 of the Best Ski News 2014 please check back next week for the 2nd instalment.