I think most skiers know global warming is happening, whatever the reasons for it. The most ominous indication is the retreat of glaciers. Over successive seasons it is easy to see how much glaciers have shrunk at many ski resorts.
In addition something has been going on in recent seasons with early season snow conditions. Whether that is down to factors other than global warming is debatable – it may just be a cyclical thing that will fix itself, but that seems unduly optimistic. Lower resorts must be particularly concerned, especially as they consider the long-term investments they may need to remain competitive with other resorts.
So will 2017 kick off a great early season and buck the trend of recent seasons?
It doesn’t look good. For the first time in 40 years Les Deux Alpes will not open for autumn skiing on its glacier.
The London Times quotes Thierry Hugues, the head of the resort’s piste management team, to explain why. “The situation is exceptional,” he is quoted as saying. “Given the low rainfall that we had throughout the year, a very hot summer and a very dry autumn, the glacier does not have enough snow cover to welcome our customers safely.”
Alpine Winter Blog will have a companion web site for the 2017/18 season. The new ski and snowboard site, Alpine Winter Sport, will expand on the scope of Swiss Winter Sports and Snow and Rail by focusing on all the important ski resorts across the Alpine region. Most notably, this will include coverage of significantly more resorts in France and Italy.
The new site will still cater predominantly for the independent traveller.
With a wealth of ski resorts to choose from, I chose to visit Verbier today. I will be checking out Zermatt next week, and had considered taking in Saas-Fee, but there are not many places that have any great extent of piste open.
There has been precious little snow since November, and with freezing levels rising above 2000m at times, resorts have struggled to keep a significant number of runs open. Snow machines have been judiciously deployed, meaning many upper runs with snow cannon are in good condition.Resort runs shielded by trees and some lower lying North-facing runs are also looking good, but even with cannon many South-facing runs are patchy, with exposed sections. Almost 50 Swiss resorts have not been able to open at all, and less than 40% of Swiss ski runs are open according to information published by the Swiss Tourist Board.
Unprepared runs are generally closed and off-piste skiing is all but non-existent. Despite the bravado of some resorts, I doubt if there is anywhere in Europe with decent skiing outside of prepared runs with snow cannon. Annoyingly this means a lot of useful cut-throughs and alternative routes are closed, funnelling skiers and snowboarders trying to get back to resorts to a limited number of routes (or even needing to take lifts down). There is also something dispiriting about vistas customarily snow-covered being brown and bare – just see how Verbier looks now:
as opposed to normally in the season:
However, all is not despondency and gloom. The sun is shining, slopes are open and – although the short-term prospects for new snow are poor – the season is still young.
It’s official! The Tesco Bank says Switzerland is the cheapest place to ski!
Well it’s not quite as straight-forward as that. Tesco Bank released their annual Ski Index yesterday. This usefully helps people find the best value skiing worldwide, based on kilometres of piste per pound, i.e. the approach is to divide the length of piste by the lift pass price to give a measure of value for money.
Not surprisingly, given Brexit’s impact on Sterling, the price of skiing has risen dramatically in most places. Bulgaria, despite still being relatively cheap, has increased in price by two thirds since last year. The USA and Canada have increases in prices of around a quarter. Andorra is at the lower end of the scale, with a price increase of only 11%. Argentina is actually 11% cheaper than last year, although you will have to wait a while before their next winter season.
Despite the price hikes, another study from Tesco Bank found that more than a third of people are still considering a ski holiday this year. The research found that 42% of those surveyed would choose a skiing holiday in Switzerland, a seemingly wise move as four of the top 10 best value ski resorts in the world (Champéry, Les Crosets, Champoussin and Veysonnaz) are based in Switzerland. Additionally Swiss prices have only risen by a modest 15% since last year, and many Swiss resorts are offering a range of sweeteners. For example, the top two resorts in the Index – both Swiss – have reduced their prices this year.
The list of the top ten Ski resorts with the best value skiing from The Tesco Bank Ski Index are as follows:
So why are Tesco interested in skiing? Search me, but they do offer a couple of nice incentives of interest to potential skiers and snowboarders. Eligible Tesco Bank Premium Credit Card customers receive family travel insurance including winter sports cover as part of the card’s benefit package. New Premium Credit Card customers will also be offered 0% interest on purchases for 6 months, which could be used to help spread the cost of a ski holiday. For more information on the Tesco Bank Ski Index, please visit www.tescobank.com/ski.
And here’s a cool video the folk from Tesco have brought us for our pleasure and anticipation of the new ski season…