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Was the 2012 - 2013 ski season the best ever?

We have had a look at the Snow Data for some of the most popular resorts in the Alps, to see if this really has been the best season ever. Updated 03/05/13: Added American and Canadian data. The answer? The 2012/13 ski season has been an astonishingly epic one for snow. The season started early with, massive dumps arriving as early as the 3rd of December. Large quantities of snow in the first fortnight of December laid the crucial foundations for what has been an excellent winter. According to Alyn Morgan of the Ski Club of Great Britain, "It’s been a fantastic season for snow across Europe. The very heavy early snowfall built good base depths and set the season up nicely compared to last year’s late start". "Whilst the large resorts in the Alps all had good seasons, it was the less popular areas in Spain and Bulgaria that saw the greatest improvement on recent seasons. The Dolomites also had a fantastic season with lots of snow falling throughout." Meribel, our most popular resort for British skiers, had a great winter. Based on the snow depth at upper levels this week, 2012-2013 was the most succesful season there since 1995. At higher levels in the resort, which has skiing up to 2950m, there is still a base layer of 210cm of snow and it’s now May! Last season was slightly better, with 225cm in late April, although this difference can be attributed to the recent warm weather. Verbier, another very popular resort for British powder-hounds and royals, currently has a snow-base of 290cm on the upper levels. Although this is marginally less than the end of season last year, when Verbs had 300cm, it compares favorably with the end of the 2011 season, when the resort had a base of only 125cm. Thus this season has been fantastic, although marginally less snow was left by late season than in 2012. Other resorts don’t conform to this pattern. Elsewhere in Switzerland, the super high resort of Zermatt has more snow now than it did last year, 220cm in April 2013 rather than 175cm in April 2012. Zermatt’s recent record was back in 2009 when by late April, the base layer up high was an astounding 400cm deep. Another resort with its own snowy micro-climate is Chamonix. Proximity to Mt Blanc gives Chamonix massive snowfall at the top. In April 2008, the snow level above Argentiere was an astonishing 600cm, considerably more than any of the resorts up the Tarentaise valley, so this seasons current level of 270cm, although good, is not unusual. Whistler has had a great season, as demonstrated by the fact Blackcomb mountain is open for skiing until May 26th. Yes you did read that correctly, there is skiing in Blackcomb until May 26th. Canada had excellent snow throughout the season, with the picture below taken in Kicking Horse in December 2012, when a metre of snow fell on the Iglu boys in five days before Christmas. Kicking Horse has had an eye-watering 7 metres over the 2012 to 2013 season, which puts the snow falls in Alpine resorts in humble comparison. Whistler collects the abundant precipitation from the nearby Pacific Ocean and the snow dumps in absurd quantities on the resort. This season so far Whistler has collected 10 metres of snow. That's enough to bury your house. Compared to last year, Whistler has had less snow, but is still currently above average in terms of snow depth. Elsewhere in North America, according to our rough meteorological calculations, Aspen, Colorado had a below average snow fall this year, with 155cm at upper levels, compared to 350cm in 2008. In Jackson Hole, our favorite resort in North America for advanced skiers, there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that the 2012 - 2013 season was not as good as the previews two years. The good news is this still gives you a respectable 213cm of end of season snow base to play with! Back in the old world, Val d'Isere has just has its most successful season for snow depth at height since 1995. Early season this year, Val d’Isere had so much snow on the 18th of December that the link to Tignes was closed and the avalanche risk was raised to 5/5, meaning an avalanche could fall at any time and all skiers had to come off the mountain. Storms like this gave the 2012 - 2013 a strong snow-base. The Espace Killy of Tignes and Val d'Isere tends to accumulate vast quantities of snow because of its geography and height, but this season has been remarkably good for the resort area. Crucially the season saw consistent falls of powder from December to April. According to ski instructor and Ski Club of Great Britain technique expert Mark Jones, who’s based out in Val d'Isere: "It’s the best season for fresh snow in 25 years.". So the best season ever? Let's say the best season since the '80s! The key improvement with this season was not just lots of snow, but lots of snow regularly. There simply wasn't a single bad week to ski this season, even right to into the spring. Now here's to looking forward to next year. By Bernard Goyder © Igluski.com

Get James Bond Skiing Again!

I’m a fan of Bond and I’m a fan of Daniel Craig, but he hasn't ticked all the Bond boxes yet. I like that Craig has brought serious grit to the character, but he needs to get his skis on. [More]

Snowboards With Breaks

Snowboards with breaks, really? This is actually a great idea from an Australian company and the boards are set to be used by Thredbo in 2013. The break helps beginners get over those anxious first few turns on the slopes and looks like a great confidence building tool. It will be interesting to see if any ski schools in Europe adopt these boards over the coming seasons.

Ski Hosting Why We Love It And What's Gone Wrong

This week a French court in the Alpine town of Albertville ruled that ski hosting offered by British tour operators is illegal and has therefore been banned. Following the news several tour operators we work with have come out and stated they are no longer offering the service. The court ruled that under French law you have to be a qualified ski or snowboard instructor to lead groups on the mountain and under the scrutiny of safety, the staff offering ski hosting were not qualified to do so. Therefore, under French law the ski hosting that has been offered is both illegal and dangerous. What Is Ski Hosting? Ski hosting is where either your resort rep or chalet host take you out for a day on the mountain. The tradition behind hosting has always been to get like-minded, intermediate skiers together, show them the best blue and red runs and to point out interesting runs, sights and good lunches. The good old British etiquette has then been for the group, as a whole, to buy lunch for the host/hosts. Having offered the hosting as a chalet host myself and also having been on a morning's hosted skiing with a reputable tour operator, it's easy to see what people love about ski hosting, or social skiing as Crystal call it. Why Do We Love It? Ski hosting offers three main positives. The first is being shown around the resort and being given a local's opinion on good areas to ski and great places for lunch — more often than not with good food, service and prices. The second aspect is the chance to meet other skiers of a similar level. Imagine you are away and your other half is in ski school all week, it means on a couple of mornings there are like-minded people to ski with, which is both sociable and fun. Thirdly, it's a good way to get to know your rep or chalet host a little better, and as they are looking after you all week, it has the potential to make for a more fun holiday all round. The big thing here is the social aspect of skiing — people to ski with, to chat to and to lunch with, regaling the morning's fun with each day. Having hosted guests, it's great fun and you can't beat a week in a chalet when you have a good rapport with your guests or hosts. What Went Wrong? There is much debate about why ski hosting has been banned, but with the courts citing safety, let's stick to that. One problem with hosting is people who turn up, get on the lifts and then are unable to ski the slopes they are being taken down, due to over exaggerating their ability — and believe me it happens. The other is sometimes down to a few bad eggs in resort. The resort rep may know of some irresistible powder, and decide it's safe to take the guests there, even though they are not qualified or insured to do so. As is often the case, the minority can sometimes ruin it for the many. Who Loses Out? So, who loses out? Well, to be honest, everyone. Holidaymakers miss out on the fun of skiing with new people, finding out the best spots to ski & have lunch and the social aspect of skiing within a group. The hosts miss out, whether a chalet host or resort rep, as building up a rapport with guests is both fun and vital to ensuring everyone is having a good time. And finally, many local businesses miss out — restaurants off the beaten track or that may look unappealing, but offer great food, will lose this stream of customers. Where Do We Go From Here? I'd like to see a sensible solution to this being put in place. Tour operators don't have the finances to pay ski instructors to offer the hosting and the same guests are never going to book a day's guiding with a ski school. So where do we go from here? I'd like the ESF, as the national ski school, to work with the operators in resort and to run a two day course with all the reps working in each resort — but based in the resort they will host, as opposed a generic course hub. The course would ensure the ski hosts were safe enough skiers and understood how to safely guide a group of people around the resort's intermediate runs. I would then like the tour operators and the ESF to police this together. Anyone who is deemed to be skiing dangerously, off piste or attempting to teach guests would lose their lift pass along with their job. This way the ESF will know who the individual ski hosts are in each resort and can be confident they are skiing within pre-arranged guidelines and sensibly. Holidaymakers could continue to enjoy the ski hosting and everything that goes with it, in the knowledge that those hosting them have been approved by the local ski school. Whether this ever happens is another story. I enjoy going on a morning of ski hosting and used to enjoy hosting my chalet guests on the mountain. Though it won't put me off skiing in France completely, it will mean that Switzerland and Austria are going to be more prominent in my searches from now on. By Stephen Adam

Igluski.com on Your Phone: Now Compact, Light and Snappy

We're delighted to announce that when you visit Igluski.com on your phone, you will now enjoy a whole new lovely experience. Here's a whirl through five key features: 1. Helpful Header At the top of every page you'll see this header. We wanted you to be able to do all the key, useful stuff you already can do from our desktop website without compromising simplicity and clarity. We spent a lot of time crafting this area to get it just right. At the top, you can search for any words (or phrases) — that's for finding specific pages or words across our site. On the right is the phone number and it's just a tap to give us a call from any page. We were careful with the opening hours too, sometimes they're a bit too dense and cluttered, we've reduced them to this simple one line. You'll notice that when we're closed, this switches to show when we next open. We think on a phone you just want to know the score right now. You can still find the full breakdown on our Contact page. Underneath those are the three main points of navigation: 1. Search for a holiday, 2. Browse our current deals and 3. Check out the snow. We get all sorts of traffic on our site, but those three things cover the vast majority of requests, so all are an easy tap on every single page. If you compare it to our existing desktop site, you can see just how much we've reduced it down: 2. It's Beautiful Modern phones allow us to make the site look truly beautiful. If you've got one of the latest iPhones or Android phones, you'll be treated to wonderful high resolution photos and icons. Afterall, nothing beats a lovely, crystal-clear shot of Chamonix. And naturally we had to choose a quality font that matches that great look. As phone screens become higher in resolution and quality, it means typefaces that are traditionally used for print now look great on screens too. So if you're on an iPhone, you'll get to enjoy browsing our site in Gill Sans. There are also plenty of other neat touches around, from subtle dropshadow to soft patterns, giving a really solid and high quality feel as you browse. 3. Speed On a phone, you've got data speeds and bandwidth to worry about. When you're on a train and browsing with 3G (or — shudder — EDGE), there's nothing worse than a stop-stutter website that's cruising through your data usage. We put a great amount of effort into keeping our site lightweight and quick. Everything (other than photos) is pure code, which means it's quicker to load and it's much more efficient than before. With a desktop site, you have to support a lot of older browsers and therefore sites often get designed without a lot of the latest technology to make them easier support. With current iPhone and Android phones we were able to make great use of all sorts of better tech, without compromising load times. Even our logo is pure code — no, seriously: 4. Everything is There One thing we desperately tried to avoid was removing any useful functionality. A complaint we often hear about mobile sites, is that a missing feature forces people to switch to the desktop site. Although a lot had to change, pretty much everything key is still there. So for example our handy date grid on holidays is too big and unwieldy for a phone, but you can still change dates and airports whilst seeing prices really easily: On top of that we've made templates for almost every existing page, so even if you find some of our most obscure pages via Google, you'll still end up on a mobile-optimised page with all the content that is present on the desktop page. And if you are struggling to find something specific, just use the search box at the top of every page, or browse the sitemap. 5. Ease What we've found in testing, is that all key functions of our site are now easier. Since the size of a phone screen is so small, we've been able to focus on distraction-free functionality. So searching and filtering criteria is a cinch, snow forecasts are automatically show on all holidays, enquiring by phone is a single tap and even enquiring by web form is just three simple fields and the type of keyboard automatically changes to help you fill them in sharpish. It means you can do the same actions quicker and easier than you could before — and it's pleasant to do so. Unlike an app where you've got to go away to the App Store and downloading something, our mobile site just works. You don't even need to follow a special link, just the next time you visit our site on your phone, it'll all be working nicely for you. Try it and let us know what you think: Igluski.com.