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In case you haven't seen the news, read the papers of been on any snowsports related websites, the Alps have been under a constant blanket of snow for the last few weeks. After a week or so of sunshine, the snow is gearing up for another go. However you look at it, this season's conditions are pretty epic!
The start of the season was beginning to look slow until mid-December, where dump after dump arrived across the Alps, turning green landscapes into glistening, white mountains just in time for the Christmas holidays. But the snow didn't let up there, with more falling into the new year and only subsiding around 10 days ago.
The huge amounts of snowfall led to resorts being cut off from the outside world over night due to road and rail closures, mostly in case of avalanche, though one or two roads did need clearing in the morning. Val d'Isere, Tignes and Val Thorens were the first resorts, then Zermatt and St. Anton, and finally, Ischgl — where the road was closed off for three days while all danger was removed by the authorities.
What we have been left with is some amazing piste skiing and huge snow depths. The off-piste is a little more tetchy, as the snow settles a stable base is beginning to form, but with a crust appearing any fresh snow could lead to slides quite quickly. Essentially we need the crusty layer to melt or slide before this weekend's snow arrives.
On top of the amazing snow on offer, it looks like we have another 4 days of snow due to arrive in the Alps this Thursday, with an estimated 50cm of snow on offer, if not more. If the snow keeps coming and the temperatures stay low, we could be looking at the best season this century and maybe even rival the amazing winter of '99.
As it stands our snow reports data is showing a story of amazing conditions. The numbers may have dropped as the snow packs down, but with figures that show 460cm of snow in St. Anton, 300cm in La Plagne, 205cm in Tignes, Meribel and Courchevel, the pistes are in great condition. If you look at the snow history over the past five years, the current conditions are blowing everything out of the water.
Val d'Isere's snow history show 171cm in January 2009, as the previous best compared with the current snow depths of 205cm, having seen 375cm fall this season.
St. Anton's snow history shows their deepest snow as 235cm, compared to the current 460cm on the upper slopes.
Ischgl's snow history shows a similar story, with 200cm of snow on the slopes, having seen 275cm of snow this season, compared with previous high of 147cm in January 2008.
I could go on and on and on, looking at the incredible conditions in Les Arcs, La Rosiere and Avoriaz, the amazing snow in Wengen, Crans Montana and Verbier. But I'd begin to bore you.
As more snow is on its way, all I can say is this year looks to be the best since I discovered skiing and snowboard 10 years ago. Holiday prices are low, snow is high and more powder is on its way. Today is supposedly the most depressing of the year, but with the mountains looking incredible and holidays affordable, it's anything but depressing to us!
This week we have a guest post from expert boot fitter, Profeet's Michelle Wilcox. What these guys don't know about ski boots isn't worth knowing, so here's a few gems about ski boot fitting, the importance of getting it done professionally and the benefits of owning your own ski boots.
Better performance, more comfort and therefore increased enjoyment are all benefits of owning your own ski boots, even for less experienced skiers. It is important to get your boots fitted professionally & it is advisable to have this done by a specialist retailer before travelling on holiday.
Top Tips For Getting The Perfect Fit:
Research your boot-fitter. Make sure that they have professional staff, a large range of boots and a comprehensively stocked workshop.
Allow enough time and don't rush! A comprehensive ski boot fit should take around one-and-a-half to two hours.
Think about previous experiences. Before you buy, think about your previous ski boots — what you liked, what you didn't, how comfortable were they etc.
Be open. Don't go in with specific boots in mind. Certain manufacturers produce boots for different shapes and sizes of feet — your boot-fitter should choose a boot for you. Just because a model suits your friend doesn't mean it will be any good for you... and NEVER buy based on colour!
Be honest. Don't lie about your ability otherwise you could end up in a top level race boot that will be much too stiff and therefore very uncomfortable. Be honest about what you want from your boot — if you are a one-week-a-year skier and want comfort, let them know.
Budget for a footbed. A footbed, be it custom or off the shelf, will improve comfort by reducing pressure points. Ski boots are designed for the 'ideal' foot — but not many people have this. By supporting your foot in the ski boot, you'll experience better alignment, your feet will be warmer and your balance & proprioception will improve — all leading to better comfort, enjoyment & performance.
Don't panic! They WILL feel tight initially. When you first put a boot on, your toes should touch the front of the boot. Ski boot liners are very thick to provide warmth and cushioning to the foot.
Prepare for change. Boots might need modification to accommodate any lumps and bumps. Your boot-fitter will have a workshop with a whole host of machines with which to make modifications to your boots. Small changes to the shell of your boot can make a big difference.
Consider your socks. A very important part of the fitting process — they are the closest thing to your foot in the ski boot. Select a sock that has shape so that it stays in the right place on your foot — some ski socks are even left and right specific. By selecting a technical ski sock with a preset shape you can avoid wrinkling and bunching. A good ski sock will have great wicking properties to prevent excessive sweat inside the boot. A thinner sock will actually keep you warmer as it will increase circulation in your foot and take up less room in the boot. They have varying amounts of padding in strategic areas such as shin and ankle bones. Ski socks are available in different thicknesses — choose a thicker sock for more comfort and if you have a narrower foot. Choose a thinner sock for more a performance orientated fit or if you have a higher volume foot.
Break them in. After buying your boots, make sure that you wear them as much as possible — if you can't get in some skiing at an indoor-snow or dry ski slope near you, then wearing them round the house will help. The more you wear them the more the liner will pack out and mould to your feet.
Dry your boots. Once you've worn your boots, make sure you dry your boots thoroughly every evening and wear fresh ski socks everyday. A damp boot will not only be much colder but will also be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Michelle Wilcox is Head Ski Technician at Profeet. Michelle has over 14 seasons of boot-fitting experience in the UK, France and New Zealand. Michelle is also a British Ski Boot-fitters Association Trainer.
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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