Edmond Nico of Chalet Alpina shares his expert knowledge and experience of what to look out for when choosing your next ski resort!
There is no doubt climate change is effecting ski resorts and every skier hunts for a high altitude ski resort hoping that it will guarantee skiing. High altitude resorts generally come with a price but altitude is not the only factor that one should consider when choosing a reliable ski resort so check out these pointers first and you will be pleasantly surprised as to how many little known resorts can be just as reliable and won't leave you mortgaging your home to pay for your ski holiday
- Having north facing slopes are just as critical for a ski resort. In the snowy, pre talked about global warming days, many resorts in the northern hemisphere were built facing south into the sun as that meant you could stay alive while skiing and not end up with frost bite. Nowadays cold north facing slopes are where the snow stays best.
- Probably the most important factor is geographical position in relation to the topography of the mountains. Resorts that are built only on one side of a high main mountain chain may only get snow if it comes from a certain direction - north, south east etc. A resort that extends to both sides of the main mountain range means that it will always get snow from whatever direction it comes from. Resorts built on both sides of a mountain range also means that the surrounding mountain range is not too high to restrict the weather from passing over to both sides of the resort.
- Nearby surrounding glaciers also play an important part not only because they keep the temperatures colder but also because they wick away the moisture in the atmosphere. Humidity in the atmosphere melts snow very quickly when the temperatures warm up. Low humidity also keeps the snow in better condition as it gets less icy and lasts longer. An open valley, rather than a valley that is closed in with high surrounding mountains, also has a drier atmosphere.
- Wind plays an important role as well. Windy resorts tend to have a drier and colder climate as well and wind tends to shift the snow into bowls creating unbelievable depths of snow sometimes. Look for resorts with wide open bowls especially on the leeward side of the predominant wind direction which is usually West to East in the European Alps and stangley enough on most mountain ranages.
- The other fallacy that skiers tend to believe is that it snows more the higher up the mountain you go. Unless temperatures are well above zero in the village it actually snows less per square meter on a steeper slope than a more gentle slope and the volume of snow is less the colder the temperatures are when snow is falling. It snows less on a steeper slope because the same square meter of snow falling out of the sky covers a larger area on the ground the steeper the slope gets, so more gentle slopes have far more snow coverage than steep slopes.
This all means that you can find resorts that are reliable for snow but that are not generally high in altitude and of course with high prices to match. It takes a bit of research to suss them out but it’s well worth it as not only do you save money but you’ll find these resorts are generally less known and usually totally CROWD FREE.
You could of course save the hassle and just come to La Thuile in the north western Italian Alps where Eddy Nico who owns the Chalet Alpina has already done all the research for you as it fits all the aspects mentioned above.
- Situated on a major alpine divide between France, Italy and Switzerland it manages to get snow coming from all directions.
- Surrounded by some large glaciers it has a dry, cold climate and the pistes are mainly north facing.
- Snow reports over the past 10 years have shown that it has far better snow right down to 1500 meters than most other resorts in the Alps. It’s ski runs are usually open from the end of November until the end of April right down to the town which is at 1500 meters.
- Prices are half the price of other resorts.
- It’s crowd free as the lift capacity serves 50,000 skiers per hour and it’s bed capacity is only 3000.
- It’s in Italy so the food’s good and the people are friendly.
There is no doubt about it Italy offers the best value for quality skiing in the Alps. Hotels are great, food is the best and Italians are the most caring people on earth. There is no doubt about it though the French pistes (not the off piste) are more challenging. La Thuile fortunately is one of those hidden gems that offers you the value and quality of Italy plus the challenge of French skiing.
Why should a border line make such a difference you ask when mountains are mountains ?
3 million years ago who cared or even noticed whether you were skiing in France, Switzerland or Italy. There are however some reasons for this. Italian resorts fear injury claims. If you've ever been involved in an Italian court case you'll understand why. They take forever to resolve. Italians also want to enjoy their skiing as part of an all round experience - the fresh air, the good food and the sunshine.
Piste making in Italy is geared towards this. Wide open perfectly groomed runs with the first runs of the morning facing the sun and the last ones following the setting sun. That's not to say all ski runs in Italy are easy and some of the black runs in La Thuile will even give the good skier a run for their money but when you are looking for some big mogul runs and some snowboard fun parks all you have to do is pop over the border on your skis and you're in France skiing "a la liberte " in the resort of La Rosiere.
La Rosiere linked to the resort of La Thuile in a ski area with 150KM of pistes offers you that opportunity to experience French freedom and French patisseries. It's worth skiing over to La Rosiere. It only takes half an hour to ski to the La Rosiere lift system from the main gondola station in La Thuile and the views down to Val d'Isere with Bourg St. Maurice in the valley are majestic. Don't delay though while delighting in that little French tart smothered in cream or you'll miss the last ski lift back and have to spend the night wining and dining in the cute little village of La Rosiere.......so !!!!