Snowsure Ski Holidays
With European resorts seeing very little snow in the last 6 weeks, we thought we'd cover the issue of the best snowsure ski resorts and what to look for.
Lets start with snowsure, is there such a thing? I guess if you go to a high altitude ski resort then it is going to have snow during the winter months. Places like Chamonix, the Espace d'Killy (Tignes and Val d'Isere), Three Valleys (Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens), Verbier and Zermatt with skiing well over 3,000m are examples and its probably reasonable to expect they will continue to have snow for centuries to come too. But this in our opinion is a far too simple way of assessing snowsure from a clients perspective and what the customer really means and wants.
In our opinion, for the average ski holiday and skier, when they are booking a holiday what they really mean, and perhaps the snowsure question they need to ask, is will the ski resort have snow where they need it, in other words, where they are going to be skiing? What do we mean by this, well if you take Mont Fort in Verbier, or the Grands Montets in Chamonix, both tower way above 3,000m and generally have very good snow, but the reality for the average ski holiday-maker is that to get off both these giant peaks you have to navigate very difficult black runs that really are for expert skiers only (both are steep mogul fields). The average holiday-maker therefore won't won't be skiing these and those that do probably won't want to ski them every day of the week. Instantly by discarding these two peaks (and its the same in many other 'high altitude ski resorts') we might as well knock 400m or 500m off the height of the resorts therefore in such cases! So whilst these resorts may always be 'snow covered', is this really what the customer means when they ask for a snowsure ski resort? Marketing executives working for the traditional large ski operators will probably cough at this point and mutter a quiet, 'yes we do mean that now shut up', but here at Chalet Ski we don't employ marketing people, we employ skiers so we are going to give the honest answer and say no, not in terms of the true spirit of what people are expecting anyway.
So whilst in our opinion there is probably no such thing really as a snowsure holiday, it is afterall relative to what you want to ski, there are some steps we believe customers can take if they want to minimise risk and maximise the chance of good snow. Some of these however have trade offs, as you will see, but here are the Chalet Ski top 5 tips for increasing the probability of good snow wherever you ski:
- Go high! Seems contradictory to our earlier statement, but lets clarify what we mean here. Ski resort height is all relative to you. Let us explain further. When looking for the most reliable ski resort for good snow, first consider the type of runs that you like skiing (e.g. blues and reds, reds and blacks, etc), and then look at where these sit on the map in terms of altitude. I.e. if you like blues, and most of these at the bottom of the ski map, for example between 1,200m and 1,700m (with reds and blacks at the top), even if the resort goes up as high as 3,000m, its likely to be a higher risk for your personal ski holiday than a ski resort that peaks at 2,500m, but the blues are mostly between 1,800m to 2,500m.
- Make sure the ski resort has a reasonable selection of north and easterly facing slopes. These slopes will of course be in the shadow for long periods and also might be cold at times as a consequence, the relatively limited sunlight and cold does however mean typically good snow.
- Snow making, not everyone loves artificial snow, but when snowfall is limited these are a god send. Lets put it this way, hard packed icy slopes, sometimes patchy too or well covered slopes with a dusting of articificial snow, I know where my money is! Therefore check out how many snow cannons the ski resort has and how many km's of piste they cover too. Even in good snow years, they help build a good base and personally I want as much cover as possible wherever I'm skiing.
- Check the ski resorts historical snow record. Some resorts such as Chamonix and St Anton seem to always do well in the snow depth records. The first (Chamonix) is probably due to the large peaks (e.g. Mont Blanc) that seem to capture any snow cloud that passes. The latter, St Anton is because although its ski resort is not high (2,700m) in comparison to some resorts, it's all relative in terms of surrounding peaks. In St Anton the Valluga that dominates its skiing is one of the highest peaks for many miles and therefore this again seems to capture as a consequence any snow cloud that passses (not a metreologists analysis but hopefully you get the picture).
- Number five probably seems a strange one, but give the 'sunny' resorts a wide berth. I know we all want sunshine, but not too much is our view! Its bad for the skin and even worse for the skiing! If the ski resort has too many sunny days it means even in good years the snow will melt in the day and freeze at night meaning rock hard pistes in the morning! In bad seasons, it means a great deal of melting and therefore not only a great deal of ice, but patches of mud all over the pistes too! Such resorts will often have predominantly south facing slopes, so in such cases, leave the sun tan and panda eyes for the summer and concentrate on the skiing!
All in all, it's fair to say a great deal of the selection is pot luck, but with some expertise the luck can be backed by some 'calculated good fortune'. Contact the Chalet Ski for more of their thoughts and expert advise from over 100 years of combined skiing among the team and lets make this a snowsure ski holiday for you.