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As the holiday rush begins it's looking like most places in Europe will be having a chilly, wet Easter. Not so great if you're going to the Lake District but excellent if you're heading to the mountains.
Snow is forecast for most resorts across Europe for the weekend, providing a good top up to the already generous snow depths we have. Late season snow can be quite different to the early season variety - a bit wetter and heavier generally, and doesn't hang around for as long on roads and warmer slopes.
Next week's forecasts look as though the weathermen could be hedging their bets a bit - a mix of snowy showers, sunshine and cloud. It does appear that temperatures will gradually be creeping up towards the end of the week - so there is a chance that you'll return with those fashionable tell-tale ski and snowboard holiday tans. Check out the forecasts on Netweather or Meteoblue.
We've said it before but this season has been a record - it feels like the snow hasn't let up that much since early December and as we head towards April, conditions are exceptional. There are still very few rocks to be seen, and snow depths are extremely healthy. On a ski trip to the Portes du Soleil this week, CD staffers were amazed that even in late March the run down to the bottom of the cable car at Les Prodains in Morzine was still perfectly fine and skiable, albeit a bit slushy in the late afternoon sun.
So next week could be a bit of a mixed bag - a bit of this...
and a bit of this...
Either way it looks like this year's spring skiing will be truly exceptional. There are some amazing deals to be had for now to the end of the season - take a look the Last Minute offers.
If you've been watching you'll know that so far winter 2013 has just kept on giving. The first 2 weeks of February in particular saw exceptional snowfall, cold temperatures and even some sunshine. It was a perfect storm in more ways than one.
Lucky CD staffers were there to catch it - see our short edit below!
With all that snow, on top of already record snow depths, it means that now, even after a couple of weeks without snow, conditions are still good. Piste skiing in many resorts will stay good up to Easter and beyond - so if you'd like to see what's available for the upcoming holidays have a look at our Easter promotions!
Music is The Fun Lovin' Criminal by Fun Lovin' Criminals - get it here if you have a UK iTunes account!
Among the early season skiers and snowboarders was Emily Watts, known as Mimi or Mims to her friends and family. Mimi was in Chamonix for the season.Having previously worked in Morzine and been bitten by the seasonnaire's bug, she had moved to Chamonix for the winter.
Tragically that day Mimi lost her life - after an excellent day with fabulous conditions, she was making her last run down alone. Jibbing around in the powder just off piste, she caught an edge and fell head first into a very deep, soft snow bank.
A few minutes later a passing skier stopped by the edge of the piste to wait for his family and noticed what he thought at first to be a bird stuck in the snow. It was the tip of Mimi's board. He tried to free her and couldn't. The rescue services were alerted. They dug her out but she had sufferred a cardiac arrest. They managed to get her heart started but by then her brain had been without oxygen for 45 minutes. Five days later, on Dec 13th, with family and friends at her bedside, doctors switched off her life support. She was just 26.
Mimi was passionate about snowboarding and the mountains. She was also a talented designer and artist and had wanted to design a range of snowboarding wear for women under the name 'Good Story.' Good Story Clothing would be aimed at female snowboarders and skaters, giving them the same versatility and style of men's brands, but in women's sizes.
Now following her death, Mimi's family have set up the Good Story organisation - aimed at helping young, creative people with good ideas to find the help, advice and even funding they need to turn their ideas into a business.
Mimi was at times overwhelmed about how to turn her designs into a business, and often found advice to be conflicting and confusing. Good Story aims to take away that confusion through offering advice, mentoring, and start up loans or funding.
Charlotte Grant, one of the trustees of Good Story, and Mimi's best friend, explains;
"Good Story is looking for applicants between the ages of 18 and 30, who can tell us a 'good story' about how their creative passion started and what has driven them to want to turn it into a business. If we feel it can work, the Good story team will meet the applicants, give them advice, and also assign them to one or more of our mentors who we feel can help them. In some cases we may also offer some forms of funding or loans if we think this is appropriate"
Good Story already has a host of different mentors who have agreed to give their time; from designers, accountants, marketing and PR professionals to tattoo artists! If you feel you have the skills and experience which could help young creatives to move into the world of business, then why not get in touch? The time can vary from just giving an hour or so for a chat, to a longer term commitment.
If anyone is interested in applying to be an applicant or mentor they can email Good Story at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are also welcome.The money will be put towards loans or small donations to help young creative people start up in business, to help pay expenses to mentors who are volunteering to help these young creative people, and, at the Trustees discretion, to make grants to help young creative talent. If you are keen to make a donation you can do so on the Good Story website.
Mimi's family and friends returned to the Grands Montets in January to scatter her ashes in the mountains, the environment she loved and where she died.
It's Valentine's Day tomorrow. There'll be lots of cards, flowers, chocolates, romantic gestures - and maybe a promise or two that you will have your first ski holiday together.
Read on... Can ski holidays damage your relationship.....
Our favourite young ski racer, Honor Clissold, has had a mixed season so far as she is training hard to consolidate new technical elements into her skiing. This is the last season she will be under the Childrens classification - and in preparation for moving up to Junior level next year Honor has been training with both the Juniors and Children with Team Evolution, the expert coaching team which Honor first joined around 18 months ago.
During the summer, with Team Evolution in Chile, Honor had the opportunity to fore-run some FIS races - which went well for her and gave her the chance to experience FIS level racing. So far this season the varying weather and conditions have meant that some of the fixtures she hoped to take part in have been cancelled, and her first races were in Czech Republic at the Nationals in January, quickly followed by the British Schoolgirl Races in Flaine. She performed well in both events - despite falling in the first run of the Flaine GS, she won the second run overall by 3 seconds. In slalom, which she has considered her weaker discipline, she won her age group and was third overall.
Honor is also one of the GB Children's Ski Team and her next races will be at the English Alpine Races over half-term in Bormio. She continues to work and train hard - and in her time out of skiing she still continues to do a lot of other sports, having represented the North of England in Tetrathlon (running, swimming, shooting and cross country riding), and was part of her school showjumping team which went to Windsor.
In his article Ski Racing is One Brutal Sport, Dr Jim Taylor explains why ski racing is possibly one of the hardest things to do - aside from the physical demands, the psychological toughness required is extreme;
"Alpine ski racing also takes you for a ride on an emotional roller coaster. You can feel inspiration, excitement, joy, and pride one run and then frustration, anger, despair, and disappointment on the next run. Because you care about ski racing so much, you feel these emotions powerfully and frequently."
Although it may appear pretty glamorous on the outside, ski racing, even as a teenager, requires strong commitment and focus, a rigorous physical programme both on and off snow, and nerves of steel in the gates, as well of course as getting homework done and keeping up with schoolwork.
Here's a clip of Honi training GS - best of luck for the rest of the season!
So how's the ski season been so far?
We're now a few weeks into season 2012-13 and it's proving to be a corker! Abundant snow in early December meant that most resorts could open up with a good solid base - and despite warmer weather over Christmas, January has so far provided welcome top ups - along with bracing sub-zero temperatures.
In most European resorts snow depths are pretty respectable for the time of year - both in resort and at the top, with some resorts (eg. Chamonix and Flaine) even registering over 3 metres at the top - quite exceptional for mid-late January. Snow quality is good, even down to low altitudes thanks to an extreme sub-zero snap and heavy snowfall around 10 days ago and more last week.
Resorts in the Pyrenees are also enjoying great conditions, despite pendulum changing temperatures - and it looks llike there's more snow coming to the region imminently.
The forecast is looking pretty good - European resorts may be getting another nice top up at the weekend.
Piste conditions are pretty good and there's been some excellent off-piste opportunities.
So if you're tempted to escape the snow at home, get to the mountains to enjoy it - that's where the snow is a blessing not a curse and is welcomed with smiles and open arms!
So as you can see, beautiful snow, blue skies, empty pistes - even on a Sunday.
The season has started with a bang! Loads of snow has fallen across Europe over the last 10 days or so, and there's more in the forecast. It's looking like it could be a record opening for many resorts - with snow depths already being measured in the metres, even in non-glacial resorts. The majority of ski resorts in Europe have opened last weekend, 15th December, some with limited opening. The rest will be opening for this weekend in preparation for the Christmas week revellers.
It's looking like Christmas week will start mild and get colder. At the moment it's hard to say exactly but meteofrance for example is forecasting positive temperatures for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day becoming sub-zero by Boxing Day.
Skiing in December and January can often throw up different challenges as you try to cope with cold, wind, snow etc. How best can you prepare for changing weather and conditions? Here's some top tips to help!
1. Layer Up
It really is best to have good technical base layers. Forget your cotton vest and long johns, you need a wicking fabric which draws perspiration away from the skin. This is as important for beginners as it is for experts. Beginners will expend more energy in the early days than intermediates - the effort of staying upright and getting up after a fall for example, coupled with having to deal with unfamiliar equipment, will get you working up a sweat. On cold nursery slopes in December and January, which are often in the shadows, any moisture on the skin can cause you to get very cold very quickly. Wicking base layers means the skin stays dry and keeps warm.
In milder temperatures the layering system means that you can easily drop a layer if you need to. Remember also that at this time of year when the days are at their shortest, the amount of direct sun you'll get will be minimal.
2. Morning Checklist
It's easy to forget those little extras which make life more bearable - especially if you haven't been on the slopes since last year. If you have kids to organise it's also a headache making sure they have everything with them. One seasoned ski mum we know posts a checklist in a very visible area - so that each family member will see it before they walk out. Her checklist includes essentials such as lift pass, goggles, ski poles, lip salve, gloves. sun screen. It's a good idea to have your own checklist and make sure everyone refers to it before leaving the accommodation.
3. Eyewear - Make it Goggles
Goggles are really the only eyewear you should be wearing if the weather and light are bad. Goggle lenses allow more light in than sunglasses and provide better protection. Go for orange/red tinted goggles which give better visibility on "flat light" days - those times when it could be white-out conditions, or cloudy, and it's hard to see the contours of the slope.
Treat your goggles well and they will last you years. Always use a goggle cloth to wipe the outside, never tissues or a sleeve etc, and NEVER wipe the inside of your goggles. This will just wipe off the protective coating and mean that they will steam up quicker.
4. Neckwarmers - the Skiers and Snowboarders friend
It's difficult to under-estimate how useful and effective these little items are. The neckwarmer covers that area between the top of your jacket and the bottom of your hat/helmet - commonly known as the neck! They also block out the wind and snow. They can be pulled up to cover part of your face on a cold chairlift. Choose one that's in a technical fabric so they will dry quickly and be ready to use everyday.
5. Boots - Dry them out at the end of day
Wherever you're staying make sure you can keep your boots in a heated area overnight so that any dampness is dried out before the next morning. Moisture in your boots will quickly freeze and cause cold toes and feet - which can severely affect your enjoyment.
Whether you're heading out for the festive season or shortly after we'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you have a great and magical ski holiday!
New concepts in ski design are literally speeding up the learning curve. First, there was the invention of carving skis. This helped skiers to turn more easily on firm snow. Then came the extra wide off-piste skis. Off-piste skis are much wider than the carving skis. This allows for better float in deeper snow, which has again helped to speed-up the learning for wanna-be off-piste skiers.
Also more recently, yet another new design concept, the "rocker" shaped skis. This fairly new rocker or reverse camber design, makes learning to ski in deep snow even easier than before. Conventional skis were cambered in their shape. Where as the clever new reverse camber design has lifted the tip and tail of the ski upwards. This new design is dramatically helping two key areas in skiing: balance and turning.
How do the rocker designed skis help for balance?
The front of the skis are bent upwards towards the skier. This provides for more forward balance support, preventing the tips of the skis from diving deep into the snow. This is revolutionary. In fact, this one design improvement alone is helping many people to master off-piste & deep powder snow skiing.
On conventional skis, it would have taken a skier much more balance practicing and forward face planting in the snow to learn the skills required to stop the ski tips from diving deep into the snow.
How do the rocker designed skis help for turning?
As the front and back of the skis are bent upwards towards the skier, they sit higher up in the snow pack than the middle of the ski. This means there is less snow encasing the front and back of the skis. Less snow equates to less resistance around the front and back of the skis. This reduction of resistance allows easier rotation or pivoting movement of the skis. In simple terms, twisting the skis becomes easier.
Remember safety first!
There is a downside to this speeding up of the learning curve. It is now possible for an intermediate skier to venture off-piste into potentially dangerous terrain and snow conditions without having learned avalanche awareness skills through experience and time. In the past, it would have taken an intermediate level skier years to master the correct off-piste technique, and in doing so, they should have also had the time to develope mountain awareness and avalanche safety skills.
With this in mind, it is highly reccommended to learn off-piste skiing with a qualified ski instructor who can also help with the mountain awareness skills needed to ski safely off piste.
It's generally been a wet autumn in the Alps with variable temperatures and some early snow. So far there are a handful of resorts open - mainly the high glacial resorts such as Tignes. There are a few more due to open this weekend December 1st, including Les Deux Alpes and Val d'Isere, and according to the forecasts it looks like there is more snow on the way during the coming week.
This time of year can often be a bit nerve-wracking for ski resorts and people who work in them as they scan the skies and the weather reports, but it looks like this week will bring cold temperatures and a good dose of the white stuff to many areas. Chamonix temperatures for example, are set to tumble this week, with precipitation all week and the rain-snow limit falling from above 2000m tomorrow to below 1000m by Thursday ( see the Netweather forecast here !). It's a similar situation in St Anton, Verbier, Zermatt and Val d'Isere.
There'll be a few more resorts openingon 8th December, including partial opening of Chamonix's Grand Montets, and the majority of resorts will be opening 15th December.
That's now a little over 2 weeks. Bring it on - we can't wait!