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Was the 2012 - 2013 ski season the best ever?

clock 2nd May 2013 | comment0 Comments

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 ©

Get James Bond Skiing Again!

clock 26th April 2013 | comment0 Comments

Daniel Craig will never be a great Bond until he has a great ski scene.

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. There’s a vengeful murderous glint in his eye that would look distinctly out of place under the camply arched eyebrow of safari suit wearing Roger Moore. He’s destroyed some eye wateringly beautiful cars, he’s had a few gadgets, he’s got the girl killed, he’s escaped the inescapable, he’s dispatched some very evil henchman and he’s saved the world from Megalomaniacs.

So why do I feel like he hasn't got it all?

Simple: He doesn't ski!

Cast your mind back to the many great Bond films and what comes straight to the mind away?

Here’s a few warm up questions:

  • Best henchman? Jaws gets my vote (until he went soft in Moonraker).
  • Best car? Any of the Aston Martins but particularly the ejector seated DB5 from Goldfinger
  • Best girl? Barbara Bach from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’.
  • Best Gadget? Little Nellie, the Gyroplane from ‘You Only Live Twice’.

And now the big ones:

  • Best starting sequence? No doubt at all that it is Roger Moore escaping from seven Russian hitmen skiers by shooting them with his ski-pole gun and skiing off a cliff, falling several thousand feet, and then opening a Union Jack parachute as the classic Bond music starts in the ‘Spy Who Loved Me’.

  • Now that was a cheer-out-loud cinematic moment!

  • Best chase scene? Many of the Aston Martin car chases will come to mind, but if you take those out then the Roger Moore Ski chase in ‘For your Eyes Only ‘ is a clear winner. It is brilliant. I would dearly love to have a try at skiing down a bobsleigh track.

Many Bond fans still rate Sean Connery as the most iconic Bond and he didn’t ski, but it’s hard to forget that Roger Moore was the most popular. And why was he more popular than those before or after? Because he skied.

To all the Broccolis that decide what happens in Bond films: don’t relegate Daniel Craig to the list of forgotten Bonds like Timmy something and Pierce something else. Get him on skis and make him the best Bond ever!

By Adam Johnson, Sales Director.


Ten Expert Insights into the Future of Skiing

clock 19th April 2013 | comment1 Comments

Recently the adventure sports magazine Outside asked some of the most influential people in the US Snow Sports industry how they envisage the Future of Skiing. They ranged from freeskiers and free thinkers like Glen Plake and Mike Douglas (film director), to big businessmen like the VP of Aspen Resorts, Auden Schendler and ex-President of Vail Resorts, Roger McCarthy.

Earlier in April we saw the US snowsports industry gather at the Mountain Travel Symposium in Snowmass, Colarado, for a forum on what is next for the snow-sports sector.

Iglu Sales Director Adam Johnson gives us a synopsis of what these legends think will happen to the snow business in the coming decades, along with some predictions of his own about the future of skiing.

Skiing has developed enormously in the last 25 years with so much improved technology and resort expansion. What stands in the way?

  1. The number one issue raised by all the experts was about sustainability. Resorts need to look at being energy self-sufficient within 10 years or be crippled by costs. This is already the main issue being addressed by all the major resorts as they look to reduce their energy costs and take advantage of their local circumstances such as high winds at altitude, strong sunshine, and hydro-electricity from all that water.

  2. Costs need to be controlled in other ways and the future of terrain parks looks troubled. Terrain parks are very expensive and the current trend for bigger and bigger jumps, rails and pipes has to end. It is becoming dangerous and only accessible to very few hard-core park rats. Better use of natural terrain that is cheaper to maintain make more sense.

  3. We need fewer, larger and more efficient lifts that go higher to offer more terrain possibilities, on and off piste, from one uplift.

  4. Summer seasons need to exploited more. With global warming, summers will become unpleasantly hot in many lower places and the cooler air of the resorts will be very attractive. Summer attractions like amusement parks, white waters sports, mountain biking, music festivals and hiking can add 20 to 30% new income to underutilised resorts, as resorts like Morzine and Chamonix are already doing.

  5. Snowmaking is expensive and uses up valuable water resources in some areas that can’t spare it. While it is helpful to keep home runs open I don’t think we can rely on this to keep the industry going. Let's just go skiing when and where it snows says Glen Plake.

  6. The future is off-piste and backcountry freeriding. The explosion of new technology for skis, boots, clothing, and safety gear has made the backcountry more accessible to anyone moving up from intermediate level. Resorts need to look at opening up sideways to allow access to more backcountry terrain. This is something the USA and Canadians have embraced far more than the Europeans. Twenty-five years ago hardly anyone ventured out of sight of the pistes. The proliferation of big back country style skis and snowboards means that many skiers and riders have little interest in the pistes. They want the thrills of steep off-piste skiing and the fresh snow that can be found off the beaten track. The European obsession with Kilometres of piste is going to backfire if they don’t embrace backcountry. I personally couldn’t care less how much KM of piste a resort has as long as it can get me high enough to find good quality snow as far from the crowds as possible. To me it’s all about metres of vertical and hectares of steep skiable terrain. It’s about time Europeans started measuring their resorts properly and talking about terrain rather than piste.

  7. The industry needs to attract new skiers and snowboarders. This means more indoor ski centres in the cities to get customers hooked and then larger free beginner ski areas in every resort. The cost of taking up the sport has to drop or we’ll never get this generation taking up snow-sports in sufficient numbers to sustain the industry.

  8. The technology of safety equipment and location devices is going to make big gains. Carrying airbags will become the standard and they will be smaller, lighter, larger when inflated, and much cheaper. Avalanche beacons and Ski Apps will become much cheaper and more accurate, probably mobile phone connected to heads-up display helmet based. This tech has to keep up with the enormous demand for backcountry skiing.

  9. There will always be snow but we will search further afield from the traditional ski countries to find the best of it. Russia, Nepal, Georgia, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Alaska and China (Tibet) will feature high and snow-sure resorts that will dominate skiing in 20 to 30 years time. Even Greenland and the South Pole will become potential destinations. Much of this skiing might be Heli or Snowcat based but this will become more mainstream.

  10. Mike Douglas thinks that ski films will get much better at telling stories rather just film gung-ho maniacs jumping off ever more improbable cliffs. I totally agree with him. I’m a bit tired of the standard shots of super-skiers who drop lines that are not accessible to those of us without personal helicopters. Why are there no real films that include skiers anymore? Even the new James Bond doesn’t ski. Until Daniel Craig gets on skis he won’t be a proper Bond for me.

By Adam Johnson, Sales Director at

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