Welcome once again to the latest edition of Best Ski News 2014 where we aim to bring you all the latet news from the slopes around the world. This week we bring you news that the phrase ‘snowmaking good for the environment’ may well be true. As well as everything else that has been happening over the festive period.
It has been a Merry Christmas, and a particularly buoyant Boxing Day in Europe with much needed snow falling across much of the continent, so there is plenty to tell you about. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
The Pyrenees got the snow first on Christmas Eve and it has continued through Christmas Day, sweeping Eastwards and northwards, first through southern France and western Italy and then on Boxing Day in to the northern French Alps and Switzerland. The Dolomites got much of their snow on Boxing Day, Madonna di Campiglio reported 20cm and Arabba more than double that with the Fassa Valley getting a foot (30cm) of powder.
Other big name resorts with big snowfalls include Chatel, Gstaad, Villars and Courmayeur with 20cm each, Bardonecchia with 30cm, Avoriaz with 38cm and Laax claiming a full half-metre of new powder. All great news for the upcoming Burton European Open.
The result has been a much-needed freshening up of ski areas in the Alps, which had good on-piste conditions thanks to the heavy November snowfalls, but little powder to ski off piste having had little or no fresh snow since then – until now that is. It’s a slightly different story in the Pyrenees, which have had a very good start to 2013-14 and has enjoyed regular top ups ever since
Closer to home, all five Scottish ski areas have been able to open thanks to the British storms that have brought snow to higher peaks in Scotland. While across the Atlantic conditions are good across much of Canada and there’s been more heavy snowfall in Colorado and Utah.
A new cable car with two 125 person gondolas will create a link between the ski areas of Grimentz and Zinal in the Val d’Anniviers in Switzerland next month. The CHF16.8m project will have a combined total of 120km of piste with more than 20 lifts and will open in January. The 3.5km long cable car, will be able to transport up to 825 people per hour taking a little over seven minutes to make the ten minute ascent.
There is already a black run between the two areas but the new lift, planned since 2006, will make it possible for skiers and boarders of all standards to travel between the two ski areas. The Val d’Anniviers (www.sierre-anniviers.ch) already operates a joint lift pass for its three ski areas which also include Chandolin, St Luc and Vercorin – together offering 220km of piste with lifts and pistes between 1341 and 3026m.
While there have long been disputes between environmental groups and ski resorts as to whether or not snowmaking harms the environment, there have been few attempts to suggest the claim ‘snowmaking good for the environment’ is actually true.
However, a study by the Institute for Ecological Research, financed by Lech Ski Lifts, has found that an even covering of snow in early autumn provides protection for the meadows, helping them produce a wide variety of flowering plant species in summer.
The ‘phytosociological study’ found that making snow early in the season does not create any changes to flora and fauna. The vegetation had already died away at the earlier time the snow was produced (i.e. the beginning of October). Depending on the altitude of the ski resort, snowfall can also occur naturally and even ground frosts can be the order of the day.
The giant 3 Valleys ski region in France also has giant prices with some of Europe’s highest lift pass prices for the full area, although cheaper tickets for individual valleys around Courchevel, Meribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens are available.
This season the full 3 Valleys pass costs €277 for a six day lift pass for adults and children aged over twelve. However, new this year, when two people buy a ticket together they will be offered a discount on the individual lift ticket price. For a six day 2013-14 pass this means the standard rate will be €10 less at €267 rather than €277 for adults and children aged thirteen and over.
The discount was first offered when three people bought passes together last season and that deal too, with a greater saving down to €262 per person, is available again this winter. A family price, when two parents and two to seven children aged five to eighteen buy a pass together, is further reduced to €221.6 each.
The organisers of the long established Gay Ski Week in Aspen, one of the world’s oldest gay ski celebrations as well as one of Aspen’s biggest annual events, have unveiled plans to stage a mass civil union of gay couples at 11am on January 18th as part of next winter’s Gay Ski Week.
The plan follows the decision by the Colorado state government to recognise civil unions involving gay couples in law last May, and the organisers hope it will be one of the biggest, if not at least the highest altitude, mass gay civil union ceremonies yet.
The Italian ski areas of Folgaria and Fiorentini have been linked by three new chairlifts this month to create a joint ski area with 100km of piste. New blue and red runs have also been created to complete the new connection, which also links two Italian provinces, Veneto (Fiorentini) and Trentino (Folgaria).
The small ski area at Fioentini was reported not to have operated for some years, so the new connection should breathe new life in to the area. The new chairlifts are all quads and result in the new 1.9km long Pioverna red (intermediate) standard piste and two blue (easy) runs, the 2.4km long Costa d’Agra (val delle lanze) and kilometre long Termental also being completed.
That’s it for Best Ski News 2014 this week. Come back next week for more news about the conditions on the slopes and other breaking news. As well as the news like ‘snowmaking good for the environment’, we aim to keep you up to date with everything else that is hapenning.