It has been a sensationally snowy week in the Alps, the Dolomites and the Rockies, with worrying reports that too much snow is building up. The phrase avalanche danger off the scale is not one any snowboarder or skier wants to hear.
Even closer to home in Scotland, our local hills are reporting deeper snow bases than the last Olympic venues of Vancouver in 2010, and this week’s in Sochi. The snow is lying nearly three metres deep in the Highlands, the best since the ‘epic winter’ five years ago.
Unfortunately there’s been so much snow that for off piste snowboarding the avalanche danger off the scale. Particularly in Austria and Italy where ‘historic snowfalls’ in the past three days have seen up to 1.5 metres (five feet) falling, causing travel chaos with blocked roads and leading the Tirol government to warn people to stay indoors if possible. It’s the biggest single snowstorm for almost a century.
The rest of the alps, the Pyrenees, Scandinavia and eastern Europe have all reported good snowfall too – typically 20-40cm of fresh snow at most resorts in the last week – much more manageable.
Across the Atlantic, California’s two month drought finally broke and there was wild excitement as up to two feet of snow has fallen. However, further inland Colorado resorts claimed ‘the storm of the century’ with more like 90-cm of powder landing on their slopes, leading to superb boarding conditions, albeit with that off piste avalanche danger high there too.
US boarder Sammy Luebke was victorious on the first stop of the 2014 SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® (FWT) on Cresta Youla, Courmayeur, Italy.
Although challenging visibility initially prevented the attempt from being successful, an exciting competition thrilled fans and athletes with an international field of competitors, all extremely eager to begin the season and start the quest to become the next FWT champions. Courmayeur Mont Blanc is the only stop on the FWT, which is exclusively a men’s competition.
Conditions in the Alps have been very difficult in the first part of the winter with high avalanche risks and thin snow in many places. Despite the tricky conditions, the FWT organizers together with the local guides found a face for the first stop of the competition season. Sunny skies and soft snow conditions proved the competition date was well worth the wait.
The competition began with men’s snowboarding and Luebke worked his way to the top of the men’s snowboard podium with a super fast start and a playful run ending with a solid front side 360. Luebke’s run earned the top score of 80.50.
‘I identified my line right away on the first day,’ said Sammy Luebke. ‘I considered other lines the last few days but am very glad I stuck with my original choice. The snow was really good with face shots throughout the venue.’
In second place, Sascha Hamm of Great Britain earned a 72.5 with a high velocity run featuring a well-executed high-speed double cliff-drop. Rounding out the snowboard podium in third place, Ludo Guilllot-Diat of France executed a hard charging style, which earned him a score of 70.25.
As we went to press, unusually it’s not the resorts of Alberta and BC in Western Canada, famed for their light powder and deep bases that are claiming the country’s deepest snow bases but Mont Sainte Anne in Quebec with more than 2.5 metres lying.
That’s especially good news for visitors this season as, along with a new detachable quad chair to get up the slopes, Mont-Sainte-Anne skiable terrain keeps expanding with the developing of two new glades on the south side of the mountain, increasing the total number of trails to 69.
One is rated intermediate and named ‘La Palette’ and the other for experts is ‘La Yahoo’, both accessible via La Montmorency piste and each end near the wonderful sugar shack of the La Pichard trail. Previously the resort’s south side had only one glade run: La Rigolo.
If you are inspired to improve your snowboarding by the performance of TeamGB in Sochi, with the likes of Jenny Jones and Billy Morgan competing, then you could sign up for the rudechalets™ snowboard skills week at the end of the season from 13 – 20 April 2014 in Avoriaz.
In partnership with Mint Snowboarding, the week will enable intermediate and advanced boarders to progress that little bit further and nail all those tricks you can’t quite master before the season comes to a close.
Participants will not only receive inclusive access to the rudechalets™ 2014 Burton Snowboard Test Centre but will also get a sneak preview and the chance to test a selection of Burton’s brand spanking new 2015 Snowboards.
A different theme each day will include airs and grabs, jibbing and buttery stuff, spin class, rails and boxes, and halfpipe and handplants. Afternoons will be free to practice techniques, explore the parks, pistes and soak up the spring sunshine
The holiday costs £489pp and includes five three-hour snowboard skills tuition, rental of a 2014 Burton snowboard, seven nights’ accommodation in an uber-cool rudechalet™, return airport transfers from Geneva, half board, unlimited wine and on-mountain video service. It does not include flights to/from Geneva.
Les 3 Vallées Enduro Race, claimed to be the world’s largest amateur ski race, will return this spring. The race has a simple concept, teams of three, on Alpine or telemark skis or snowboard, have to complete a loop around Les 3 Vallées by taking part in special races across the ski area: freeride, skicross, freestyle (big air bag), parallel slalom, descent, freestyle descent freestyle, super-G and speed skiing.
Each team can choose their own route and the different challenges they wish to take part in and the goal of the competition is to spend an exceptional day enjoying the (hopefully) ideal spring ski conditions in the world’s largest ski area – this year on Sunday the 6 April. The race is open to all ability levels and there’s even a family category so everyone can take part.
So despite warnings that the avalanche danger off the scale, it is again a week of Interesting Snowboarding News. Unfortunately that is going to be the last edition of our weekly news, we will be aiming for a monthly bulletin summarising resort news, gear launches and new openings and leving snow reporting to the weather men. Take care on, and particularly off, the piste.