This edition of Best Ski News 2014 brings you news of too much snow across Europe, as the continent is hit by some severe weather over January and February. There have been spectacular snowfalls in Austria, Italy and the USA over the past week – and very good snowfalls pretty well everywhere else too.
It’s a case of feast or famine in Austria, where lower resorts had had a poor start to the ski season and not much snow at all until a week ago. Now the provincial government on the Tirol has been warning people to stay indoors and not travel if possible after ‘the biggest snowfall since 1917’.
The biggest snowfalls have in fact been in the south of the country spilling over in to the Dolomites, with up to 1.5 metres (five feet) falling in 48 hours, blocking roads and sending avalanche alerts ‘off the scale’. You wouldn’t think too much snow would be a problem but it can sometimes be difficult for ski resorts to cope.
While the Austrian snowfall is extreme, most of the rest of the Alps, along with the Pyrenees and Scandinavia, have been reporting good snowfalls of typically 30-70cm, over the last seven days too. So things are looking good pretty well everywhere and if anything there may be too much snow.
Two areas that were, like Austria, not looking good for snow until recently, have also reported some worthwhile snow. Eastern European areas have reported 20-30cm after very little fresh snow for more than a month. And in California there’s been up to 60cm of new snow in the state that’s had a serious drought for months, leaving levels well below the norm.
North of the border, unusually snow depths in Quebec on the east of Canada at up to 2.5m are greater than those in Alberta and BC on the West.
Elsewhere, Scotland’s five ski areas have been claiming the best snow conditions for up to five years (that epic winter of 09/10) and are pointing out that their 2-3m snow base at present beats the current levels at both the 2010 Olympic venues near Vancouver and at Sochi, where the 2014 Games kick off at the weekend.
Eighteen teams achieve record distance in the 2014 Alpine Challenge
Eighteen teams have returned to the UK after competing in the 2014 Snow-Camp Alpine Challenge in perfect powder snow conditions in Morzine.
The Challenge, now in its fifth year, involves attempting to reach 21 checkpoints across the huge Portes de Soleil ski area, with teams clocking up GPS-tracked kilometres as they go. Besides having fun, the endurance event raises money to support charity Snow-Camp’s work with young people.
‘We added even more checkpoints this year, and on top of the mountain hike, a sledge relay ensured this year’s Challenge was the toughest yet’, said Snow-Camp director, Dan Charlish. ‘As always the atmosphere was fantastic with all the teams enjoying the level of competition and experience of navigating around fifteen resorts and hundreds of kilometres of pistes’, he added.
Local team Morzine Source Magazine were crowned Alpine Challenge Champions for 2014 with a staggering combined team ski and hike total of 316 km, whilst hitting all 21 checkpoints over the two days. Second place went to Mountain Maverick, with a total of 312km and third went to team MASS with 306km.
Over 80 people took part in this year’s Challenge, representing companies including PWC, Delancey, Ernst & Young, eBay and EA SPORTS. Combined fundraising across all teams is still coming in but the event has already raised over £30,000.
The Alpine Challenge 2015 will be launched soon: www.snowcamp.org.uk/alpinechallenge
Olympians will return closer to home
After all the build up, the Sochi Olympic are almost upon us. But getting to the Games to see the action live was a great challenge, but the newly crowned Olympic champions of the next few weeks will have a few months of the season left to continue World Cup competition at more accessible locations after the Games.
You can, for example, see the best international athletes twisting, turning and racing down the fall-line during the Moguls and Ski Cross World Cup Finals in Plagne Centre (la-plagne.com), and performing gravity-defying tricks in a new Big Air mogul event from 19-23 March.
White shapes In Ischgl
This year’s ‘Shapes In White’ snow sculpture contest in Ischgl took on the theme of the Austrian resort itself, which was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its lifts operating.
Ten international artists worked their way through tonnes of ice and snow over four days and the winning sculpture is ‘Die Pioniere’ by Ivo Piazza and Reiner Kasslatter from South Tyrol.
In 1961, 73 business partners founded the Silvrettaseilbahn AG at the Hotel Post in Ischgl. Since then the Alpine lifestyle metropolis has evolved from a mountain farming village into one of the world’s most renowned winter sports resorts.
In December 1963, the Silvretta aerial tramway went into operation and since then the valley has invested 400 million euros in the maintenance and further development of the ski resort. To this day, the residents have waived their rights to dividends. Instead the profits flow straight back into the joint-stock company.
Zermatt funicular reborn
There was a full LED dance show for the relaunch of Zermatt’s famous Sunnegga funicular this season, following a record breaking two month rennovation.
Local ski racer Fränzi Aufdenblatten was appointed the new railway’s ‘godmother’ although she was unable to attend the ceremony in person because of World Cup racing commitments.
Speaking in a video message, she said: ‘I am very proud to be asked to act as godmother to the Sunnegga funicular. I see this honour as recognition for what I have tried to achieve over the last few years.’
For 32 years, what was hailed at the time as Europe’s first Alpine metro took visitors up to Sunnegga, until it was replaced by a new, ultramodern funicular in summer 2013. Today, passengers enjoy greater comfort in the more spacious compartments and an almost silent trip, which takes less than four minutes at speeds of up to 12 metres per second. No other funicular in Switzerland is as fast.
The Reverend Stefan Roth concluded the ceremony by blessing the railway and wishing it a long and happy future.
That’s it for this weeks Best Ski News, and the end of our weekly news. From now on we will be going monthly and will be dropping the snow news to concentrate on events, openings and resort news. The problem of ‘too much snow’ is a nice one to have so go and enjoy – but be safe!