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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...
This week we are looking at HD cameras for the slopes and have enlisted the expert help of Matt Taylor, from Action Cameras, to give us a review of this year's hottest piece of kit, the GoPro HD Hero2.
So by now, most people have heard of GoPro and if you haven't you've almost certainly seen footage filmed on one: that video of the fella getting knocked of his bike by a buck in South Africa — GoPro, the one where Ken Block does doughnuts in his rally car — GoPro, point of view footage in films such as the Art of Flight, Deeper and That's it That's All — you guessed it, GoPro. "But that was the GoPro HD Hero 1?" you may say, "what is all this I hear about the GoPro HD Hero 2 Motorsport, Outdoor and Surf Editions?" I hear you cry, well here goes...
First up, they look (almost) the same, they weigh the same, they're both waterproof to 60m and they both shoot HD video through a 170° lens. To spot the differences between the Hero 1 and 2, you have to look deeper. Like its predecessor, the Hero 2 brings increased low light performance, 11 megapixel photos and the ability to capture bursts of 10 photos in a second, meaning it's great for sports photography and cobbling together sequential photos of you going big off that jump or successfully backflipping that cliff. Other features include a redesigned digital display, something which was much needed as the Hero 1 was, at times, difficult to navigate. Plus, there are more developments on the way from GoPro, these include a remote control and a Wi-Fi backpack, which will undoubtedly only be compatible with the new version.
In summary then, GoPros are awesome, they're great fun, easy to use, and great quality. The New GoPro HD Hero 2 ups the game a little, continuing the trend for full 1080p HD recording and offering better quality still photo options and if you like the idea of a remote control and Wi-Fi backpack, anything but the Hero 2 simply won't do.
They both weigh the same, both can record full high definition video and both can shoot a 170° field of vision. Somehow, GoPro’s latest release improves on the HD Hero.
That’s more than twice as powerful as the HD Hero, not to mention the completely redesigned wide-angle lens or simplified language-based user interface. We hope that straightens things out.
Full discloser: We are currently running a win a GoPro competition with Action Cameras.
Last week I was lucky enough to go to the London premiere of this year's Warren Miller film, ...Like There's No Tomorrow. With last year's offering, Wintervention, being a killer film, ...Like There's No Tomorrow had a lot to live up to.
As you would expect Warren Miller didn't let us down with this year's film. Due to the epic amounts of snowfall last season, some incredible skill, some heart-warming stories centring on legends such as Tom Day, and of course some good humour, the film was a real ball.
To add to the great film that was on offer, the Warren Miller Tour had the usual fun you would expect from the film makers. During the banter-filled interval prizes from the main sponsors, including a pair of Rossignol skis, a Columbia jacket and some Warren Miller film crew kit, were given away. The guys from Nissan, the film's main sponsor definitely looked to have enjoyed the pre-film hospitality and cheered endlessly throughout the break.
... Like's There's No Tomorrow gets into the action pretty quickly with a trip to the Indian Himalayas. Big mountain skier, Lynsey Dyer and the renowned Alaskan heli-guide, Lel Tone, take us on a trip to these magical mountains. With true first descents on huge faces, followed by some sublime tree skiing, that wouldn't look out of place in a Japanese resort, whet the appetite. After taking on the huge lines and never-before-skied sections of the mountains, the girls head to the local resort of Gulmarg to showcase the country's basic, but dedicated skiing scene, while handing out a few tips to the locals.
Another standout section of the film was the trip to Andreas Hatweit's backyard in Sudndalen, Norway. The freestyle skier has built a world class park literally in his garden and the section includes a selection of top skiers, including Jossi Wells and Britain's James Woods, sessioning the park in day time and under flood lights. This is pretty nuts and needs to be seen to be believed. It definitely beats anything I've seen outside any seasonaire accommodation in the Alps!
The Monashee's section featuring the Yeti has to be my favourite. It starts with skier Andy Mahre declaring: "The key to life is to live each day like it’s your last day. If you’re sitting on the couch, you’re obviously not riding powder, so maybe you should get off the couch." The section that has Mahre and Tyler Ceccanti showing the insane powder, endless pillow lines and mouth-watering skiing to be had from BC's infamous Monashee Lodge. If the awesome riding isn't enough, there is also a subplot involving a yeti stalking Mahre and snaking his lines.
The Rahlves Banzai Tour is pure madness and nothing less. Imagine skier-cross with no rules and you have Banzai Downhill, essentially it's four skiers or snowboarders and the first to the bottom, crashes, shoves and cutting one another up is all part of the carnage. As described by one of the participants: "[you] go as fast as you can, down the gnarliest terrain that you can find and hopefully make it to the bottom." Brilliant.
The film ends on a mixed note with a trip to Alaska. The Alaska section starts with the Point North Heli-skiing family, describing their founders Kevin & Jessica Quinn, along with their new baby. The team then head into the Chegach Mountains with Seth Wescott, Tim Durtschi and Kip Garre, showcasing the incredible, steep, deep terrain on offer.
The section then turns into homage to Kip Garre, after informing the audience of his lost life in an avalanche last winter, the moving section showcases Garre's fantastic skiing and love of the mountains, along with Seth Wescott paying tribute to him. The section, and with it the film, is brought to an end with Wescott's quote, which is also the influence behind the title, " “It doesn't matter what’s going to happen tomorrow because you are living for the moment…and you are totally engrossed in it…and you are loving being there and being present like that. People who commit themselves to this lifestyle take advantage of it…like there might not be a tomorrow."
...Like There's No Tomorrow is about skiing with that in mind, instead of approaching each run thinking about what's next, it's about enjoying every minute on your skis and snowboard as if they are your last. Out of all the films I have seen this year, Warren Miller's latest offering is the one that has me pining for the mountains the most. I know I'll only have one trip this winter, but I'll be treating each day as if it's my last.
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Travel Agent of the Year 2013