21/11/11 – Will it be a white Christmas?

The view from Anzere towards Veysonnaz and Nendaz late last month

Several weeks of mostly sunny skies and a forecast for more of the same across the Alps is leading to uneasiness in European resorts and among the people who are planning to visit them in the Christmas holidays.

The lovely autumnal views I admired in late October, when I visited the Valais for a few days, look largely similar now, I’m told, if a little more criss-crossed by bright ribbons of artificial snow.

Commentators in the papers are advising people to aim high early in the season. A friend of mine who works in Zermatt – where, I’ve heard, conditions on the glacier have been superb lately – sounds pretty worried on behalf of lower-altitude resorts. And a post on Snowheads, the forum for skeenites, entitled, ‘Is it too early for the OMG no snow thread?’ has had, as I write, 258 replies and 18,858 views since 4 November (http://tinyurl.com/88d54tt).

However, most years it is sensible to stick to high-altitude resorts early on, and I don’t think we should assume this European winter will be a dud (no concern, right now, in North America, where resorts such as Snowmass, Colorado, are opening early – http://tinyurl.com/7goveco).

No snow? No lift pass needed

Look up snow records from past years and you’ll find many a November when cover was close to zero and a ‘normal’ season followed. I use the Ski Club of GB’s historic snow data, all the way back to 1993 – only visible to members, but if you like looking at statistics and are interested in snow, it’s almost worth the subscription (£58) for that alone. Alternatively, igluski.com has data you can see for free, back to 2007.

It doesn’t take many days of snow to give reasonable cover. Another few storms like this one – http://tinyurl.com/7chpk3c – should do the trick.

Failing that, wait for my sister and her family to drive to the Alps in mid-December. Snow never fails to start falling as soon as they load up their rather fragile Toyota saloon for the journey to Switzerland. They always need their chains as well as snow tyres, and sometimes they need towing, too.

Unfortunately, this trick may not work in time for my first trip – which is in exactly six days. Perhaps this wasn’t the year to commit to a week in Tignes in late November, but who knows, maybe a blizzard will blow in to soften up the snow on the glacier and all that artificial they have surely been churning out. If it doesn’t, too bad, and as you can see here, you can have lots of fun on just a little of the white stuff: http://tinyurl.com/7jnsf8s

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Filed under Gear, Switzerland, Transport

3 responses to “21/11/11 – Will it be a white Christmas?

  1. Hi, I love your blog, it’s incredible. But basically, my school ski team are interested in buying catsuits, but I was wondering if you knew how much faster catsuits would make your time. Or do you know where I could find such statistics? Thanks!!

    • Thanks very much! Catsuits definitely make a difference, but how much, and whether it’s worthwhile depends on the course, the type of race and the standard of racer. When I do the Inferno (see Jan 2011 posts) I wear a catsuit because there are two long, gliding stretches, plus a schuss into an uphill, on which it makes a big difference. I also wore one for the Inferno GS this year, and I think it made me faster than if I’d been without. When I did the Weisse Rausch (see April post and my recent article on amateur races in Fall-Line) I was a first-timer on the course and knew that most of the way down I’d just be going for speed control, so a catsuit might have made me more tired as I’d have gone faster… and then needed to slow down. So I just wore my ski suit. For the Parsenn Derby in Davos (see a March post and the Fall-Line piece), a straight downhill, I got my fastest time when wearing a catsuit, but the skis actually made more of a difference.
      Anecdotally, I’ve been told by trainers that on a GS course it makes a couple of seconds’ difference. Stats: no idea I’m afraid, but if you find some, let me know as it would be interesting. And good luck with your schools racing this season – I did the Schoolgirls’ Races in Villars and Flaine more than 20 years ago and it was lots of fun.
      You can buy ex-team, second-hand catsuits online or perhaps by contacting the team administrators, or failing that, there are sometimes suits on ebay…

  2. Hi,

    love your blog! just for info, It’s been snowing a lot these days in Anzere, it is madness!! you can check out how much it snowed on http://www.anzere.ch/fr/multimedia/webcams/ or on Facebook…

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