Well, hello there, and welcome to another edition of the Best Ski News 2014. The place where we try and keep you up to date and informed about all the latest goings on in the ski scene around the world. From weather reports to the latest news about ski halfpipe gold.
The Christmas and New Year holiday period may be over and as we set off into a new year slightly overweight and depressed that it’s January again, we bring you the good news that many resorts in the Alps …and the Pyrenees, Dolomites, Rockies, New England … are looking much snowier after a white weekend.
It’s not all good news, alas. A rather poor start to the new year is being experienced in Austria where it’s been rather warm, rather wet and not very white, and a serious snowfall is badly needed. That’s not to say the big name resorts have not had a few inches of snow at the weekend and aren’t managing to keep slopes open thanks to snowmaking, but a bit more would be good.
The best news has come from areas like the Portes du Soleil on the French/Swiss border, which reported two feet (60cm) of snow over the weekend, or the Grand Massif around Flaine with a foot. Falls of 20-25cm in 24 hours were also recorded by St Moritz, Gstaad, Megeve and many others. Across the Atlantic there’ve been similar accumulations in Colorado and New England, where it’s a bit nippy. Marmot Basin at Jasper in Alberta claims 40cm of fresh light powder.
Looking at the forecast the best place for snow in the next week is likely to be Niseko Japan. this is no surprise as they has 20m of beautiful light fluffy powder last year! Check out HT Holidays special deals if you want to book a trip to Niseko.
More cheery news for the start of 2014 was that Rowan Cheshire has become the first ever British woman to win a ski halfpipe gold at the FIS World Cup on Friday 3 January in Calgary.
The 18-year-old delivered a fantastic first run scoring 80.40 points, sealing her gold. She produced huge amplitude throughout the run and an impressive 540 to flair to 900 trick combination.
‘In training we have been working hard with Rowan on new tricks and we knew she had the potential to podium. She is so dedicated and all the hard work has now paid off with this win,’ said her coach, Pat Sharples.
With the Sochi Olympics now only a month away, for full profiles of all British ski and snowboard athletes visit www.teambss.org.uk and for all FIS schedules and results visit www.fis-ski.com. Let’s hope Rowan can repeat her ski halfpipe gold achievement.
The number of snowmaking guns operating at Austrian ski areas has reached 20,000, according to a spokesman for TechnoAlpin, the world’s largest snowmaking company, quoted in Austrian media. The snowmaking systems are supported by 420 reservoirs. Austrian ski resorts have spent just under half a billion Euros on infrastructure this year, around a fifth of it on new lifts, and a similar amount on new and upgraded snowmaking.
The expansion in snowmaking causes concern in Austria, which is one of the world’s greenest countries with no nuclear power and its rail network using entirely renewable energy. On the other hand, the ski industry is a major national employer and winter sports a key business sector in the Austrian economy.
TechnoAlpin say that six years ago, in 2007, there were only 3,100 snowmaking machines in all of Europe. Austria’s Amadé group of areas alone now have 4,500 snow cannons covering 90% of their 760 kilometers of piste and say 25% of their €20 million snowmaking equipment investment is for upgrades.
Although newer snowmaking systems are much more energy efficient than those they replace, the energy consumed by snowmaking amounts to 210GWh, equivalent to the annual requirements of 600,000 households.
Disability Snowsport UK chief executive Fiona Young has been honoured with an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List. Fiona, who combines the roles of CEO and technical director, has been involved with DSUK for around 20 years. She has designed and taught the courses that the British Association for Snowsports Instructors (BASI) provides for those wishing to gain competence to instruct disabled skiers and receives her award for services to disability sport.
Although there’s an overlap of British and French school holiday weeks over the February half term – leading to inevitable supply-and-demand consequences on prices and availability – the French Alps specialist Peak Retreats report that this will not be an issue at Easter, as English school holidays will be largely over before the French ones begin.
‘Take advantage of sunny skies, quieter slopes and longer days. Going in the later part of the ski seasons means you could avoid the crowds and enjoy some sunshine. The added bonus for 2014 being French school holidays are in late April so the main UK Easter week from 5th April, will be much quieter,’ said a company spokesperson.
Adding: ‘One of the top reasons to ski this Easter will be the significant savings to be made on apartment prices. Due to the later date, many suppliers have cut peak-date supplements, which means your ski holiday could cost you almost half the amount as going in February half-term.
Stay in a lesser-known, traditional resort with access to higher, well-known ski areas such as; Samoëns for Flaine, Les Gets for Avoriaz or Tignes 1800 les Boisses for Tignes/Val d’Isere. This way you could avoid big name resort pricing but still take advantage of the high-altitude snow.’
The rate in increase in the number of Facebook fans for leading ski areas has slowed so far this winter compared to the previous three. This could be in part due to a ‘maturing’ of the Facebook concept and in part the growth of other forms of social media. Most areas that were adding tens of thousands of new fans every quarter are now only adding at 10% of the former rate.
The exceptions include Jackson Hole, which has added 45,000 fans in the past three months, knocking Breckenridge out of the top ten, and placing it with the third most fans. It seems likely to overtake long term ‘most Facebook fans’ ski area title holder, Mammoth, before the end of the winter. In Europe Val Thorens has seen a 20% jump in fan numbers in the past three months.
The top ten most popular ski areas, which two seasons ago was entirely made up of North American ski areas, now has five north American entries, one southern hemisphere, one indoor snow centre and three European entries, including a small ski area (but wider year round recreation area) in Portugal.
177188 Mammoth, USA
163839 Whistler, Canada
159085 Jackson Hole, USA
158963 Valle Nevado, Chile
157476 Vallnord, Andorra
154641 Vail, USA
141500 Heavenly, USA
137852 Serra da Estrella, Portrugal
129668 Ski Dubai, UAE
123613 Val Thorens, France
Well, with news of ski halfpipe gold, some snow and the promise of more on the way, it hasn’t been a bad week all in all, despite the post-holiday blues. See you next week.