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If you have been fortunate to ski or board this season — lucky you! The snow conditions are still superb in both Europe and America, with plenty more powder to come. It is the time of year where we enter the ski festival season — here are just a few ideas for March & April
Firstly Austria, Mayrhofen from March 26-31 has the superb Altitude festival, if you fancy a bit of comedy on your ski trip with the likes of Jimmy Carr, Ed Byrne, Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges & Phil Jupitus on the guest list.
On the Music front for jazz fans in France, from March 18-25 in Avoriaz the Jazz Up Festival is kicking off, with Tigran Hamasyan who won 1st Prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival recently.
Switzerland will offer the Caprices festival in Crans Montana, where amongst the acts performing here are are Charlie Winston, Sean Paul & The Earth Wind & Fire Experience from April 11-14.
These are just a few ideas — there is plenty of choice out there if you fancy a ski trip and want to enjoy a festival at the same time.
This season has surpassed all expectations, so what are you waiting for come and join the party!
Over the past few seasons there have been some pretty high profile crashes in skiing. Chemmy Alcott is part way through her second season without racing after a crash, while Lynsey Vonn recently suffered concussion while racing. The Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel has also claimed several victims over the past four years, including Scott McCartney — who was kept in an induced coma to recover from his head injury.
With ski racers getting faster and faster the FIS have decided they need to improve safety in the sport and have teamed up with Italian company Dainese to create a ski racers airbag — yes, an airbag. The project is set to run until the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, and will hopefully be successful in delivering a safety system to reduce injuries for ski racers.
Dainese have already pioneered a similar airbag system that is used in motorcycle racing, hence why the FIS have turned to them. They also make a variety of helmets, back protectors and pads that mortal skiers and snowboards, like you and me, use everyday on the slopes. So these guys are pretty much the best bet to get this right.
Günther Hujara, FIS Chief Race Director for the men’s Alpine Skiing, said: "Thanks to the close cooperation with Dainese that began three years ago, we have already seen many improvements in the protection of ski racers. Our latest project, the development of an air bag system for Alpine Skiing, is the most extensive of all and relies on Dainese's long-term experience in motor racing."
He added: "Research and data collection are under way since last season, seeking to define the exact point at which the racer is no longer in control and a fall becomes inevitable. Whilst much data have already been gathered, further information is still needed. We look forward to continuing this excellent cooperation with Dainese into the future."
The biggest stumbling block so far has been timing when the airbag would be released. Due to people skiing in very different fashions — just watch Didier Cuche and Bode Miller take on the same run if you don't believe me — and also due to the variety of crashes that take place. On motorcycles, the airbag is set to deploy when the rider leaves the bike with a forward rotation, but that wouldn't work in skiing.
The project, known as D-air® Ski, is working with another study put together by the FIS, the FIS Injury Surveillance System (FIS ISS), to gather as much data as possible on crashes, to enable the best possible development. The FIS ISS is working with 16 World Cup athletes, including Aksel Lund Svindal and Kristian Ghedina — who are serving as athlete testimonials on the D-air® Ski project.
Aksel Lund Svindal stated: "I'm honoured to be part of this high-level project. Protection is extremely important for us athletes and the development of an air bag for ski racing can increase the level of our safety. I'm happy to give my contribution for the data collection and to transfer my feedback. I hope that very soon all my colleagues will be able to use this outstanding device."
With ski racers traveling at speeds of over 90 mph, with 96.6 mph the faster recorded in a race (Klaus Kroell, on the Lauberhorn course in Wengen, Switzerland), safety has to be of paramount importance. But will an airbag system work?
I'm all for the exploration of making the sport safer and helping to guard against injury prevention, but I'm struggling to see how this will work. Will they have to rely on the user to set off the bag, or will studying enough algorithms and skiing styles bring around the answer?
Also, what will the impact be on skiing? As I said, I am completely for improved safety across all sports, but the excitement comes from watching athletes push themselves to the ultimate level of their ability. Will skiers push themselves further, knowing there is less risk, or will safety take precedent over competition?
After the tragic loss of Sarah Burke and the dreadful crash that Kevin Pearce had two years ago, will these safety measures make their way over the the freestyle elements of skiing and snowboarding? Safety is on a lot of people's minds at the moment and it will be interesting to see the long term effects on the sport, as long as we don't lose the exciting characters, the adrenaline rush from watching or participating and athletes continuing to push the limits of the sports.
Over the past week winter has returned to the Alps in style, even though the BBC, Daily Mail, Guardian and the Metro would have had us thinking differently.
The three well known purveyors of news all ran articles of doom and gloom on the slopes on Monday sparking us, and many others in the ski community, into a Twitter frenzy of live snow updates, photos and forecasts. Thanks to team members and friends in the Alps, our snow reports section, using snow data we receive from Snow-Forecast and the Ski Club, and a variety of up-to-date webcams, we helped to dispel the rumour.
Okay, so I have to concede, following some fantastic early November snowfall, with the likes of Zermatt and Saas Fee boasting well over a metre of snow, the temperatures in Europe warmed and the best early snow seemed to be arriving in North America, with British Columbia and Whistler in particular, looking impressive and more akin to mid-season conditions already.
But, thanks to Mother Natures, the snow gods, or to whom you choose to believe in, the snow is coming back in huge amounts at the moment. Over the weekend a think dusting or fresh, cold, white snow covered to Alps, from Austria to France, via Switzerland and Italy. The webcams began to tell a story of fantastic snow and the pictures from resort started to appear in my inbox.
By Monday we were receiving powder-filled photo's from some of our staff in Tignes, followed by snow-covered photo updates from the Masterclass ski school in Alpe d'Huez and, as always, some fantastic photos of Val d'Isere courtesy of Y.S.E Ski. Before we knew it we were bombarding the offending press with snow-filled tweets and more and more of our followers and friends jumped on the bandwagon.
As the week has gone on more and more snow has arrived in resort. Official snow reports are showing 20cm a day in some places, while eye witness and resorts locals have reported half a meter falling in Val d'Isere, Verbier, Mayrhofen and Avoriaz in the past 24 hours. There is more snow arriving today, and though there is a sunnier outlook for the weekend, the temperatures are cold and the long range weather forecast is showing signs of more of the same next week.
The old adage of head high in early season, is still the sensible approach, given last months lack of snow, though there are plenty of micro-climates out there also worth a look. Flaine is boasted 70cm of snow in two days this week, as did Avoriaz and Megeve — with all three ski areas benefitting from a close proximity to a huge supply of water, Lake Lucerne, and a huge Mountain to cool any precipitation, Mt. Blanc.
Val d'Isere this morning — photo Y.S.E.
Over in Austria and the Arlberg region also boasts a renowned micro-climate, with St. Anton, Lech and St. Christoph boasting some fabulous snowfall this week. High resorts such Ischgl and Soll have also had some fantastic snow over the past five days.
The season is approaching full swing, with the Christmas holiday season two weeks away, and the mountains are getting into the right spirit for a white Christmas. So, as the old song goes: Let it snow, let it snow, let is snow...
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