In recent years, a huge amount of investment has gone into snow making facilities in many resorts across Switzerland, an investment that paid off during the early part of the 2015/16 season. After the snow failed to fall, resorts such as Arosa and Verbier were able to operate virtually as normal thanks to huge quantities of man-made snow. After a long absence, the snow eventually returned, falling heaviest during the middle part of January, and setting up a plethora of powder days for riders. This continued throughout much of the second half of the season, with excellent riding conditions available across many regions right up until Easter.
Of other ski regions, West Coast USA, Canada, Scotland and, to an extent, Scandinavia, all had good seasons. Eastern Europe was particularly poor, and amongst most other European ski areas only high resorts such as Chamonix fared well.
We moved over to the USA towards the end of summer and plan to return to Europe early next year. Although my focus is usually on winter sports in Switzerland, I have skied extensively in Europe – Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Bulgaria, France, Andorra and Scotland (where I have skied every resort). I have also skied all of the most well known European resorts, with the exception of Cortina. However my skiing in the Western Hemisphere is limited to a few outings on the East Coast when I lived in greater New York. Work and family demanded all of my attention, and I never got to make it to the Rockies.
The main reason we are in the USA is to enable my wife to support her parents through a house move and a few other domestic issues. That has given me an opportunity to see more of the USA, which I have documented at a microsite called Looking for America – it’s a sort of a blog, but I’m still updating it. It has also enabled me to do a quick road trip to take in a few West Coast Ski Resorts.
I drove off from Texas in a FWD Buick with all-weather tyres. I was lucky with the weather, but if I was to do the trip again I would definitely want winter tyres. I saw at least a dozen cars stranded or which had spun off the road, and on one pass I barely got over even in first gear.
The resorts I visited were Taos in New Mexico, Vail in Colorado, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Snowbird in Utah and Mammoth in California. My choice was in part dictated by a desire to see as much variety of terrain as I could and, in Vail, experience what is generally reckoned to be the one US resort which competes with the best in Europe. Taos, Snowbird and Jackson Hole are also regarded as having the steepest slopes in North America.
I plan to update this blog with details on all the resorts I visited, but as a teaser let me say that I was thoroughly impressed with my experiences but do have a couple of reservations. More of that in ensuing posts…
Although I am a huge fan of skiing in Switzerland, I actually learnt to ski in Scotland, on the Cairngorm. And, although I have managed to visit every significant Swiss ski resort, I can claim to have skied ALL of the Scottish resorts. Well, all five of them – Switzerland has over two hundred.
The shortcomings of Scottish skiing are several. The weather is unpredictable, the verticals are relatively small and the public transport access is poor. However, I have had some fabulous days skiing in Scotland. Cairngorm is the best known, Nevis (with a top station around 1200m) is the highest and Glenshee the most extensive; all three, on a good day, are glorious resorts to ski and well worth the visit – as good as some of my favourite medium-sized Alpine resorts. Glencoe and the Lecht are more limited, but the Lecht is convenient for where my family live and is good to get a few turns in.