Located in Radstadt Tauern, a subrange of the Austrian Central Alps, the winter sports resort of Obertauern offers more the 100 kilometers of pistes with the guarantee of snow from mid-November through to early-May each year. State-of-the-art lift facilities ensure skiers are transported safely and swiftly to even the highest peak (2,313m) to enjoy maximum time on the snow. Night-time skiing extends the pleasure and all levels of experience are catered for, from beginners through to dare-devil experts. Ski-in/ski-out accommodation offers luxury and convenience of the highest standard.
The history of the village of Obertauern goes back to the Celtic era (4th-1st century BC) and Romans used the pass in the first century, as attested to by relic milestones and tracks of Roman wagons. However the first mention of the pass was in 1207 with records in 1224 noting that a small church had been built at the top of the pass. By 1517, two inns had been built there, and these remain part of the village today. In 1764 a post office was opened with deliveries twice a week.
It is thought that the first skiers discovered the area in 1902, but the first record of skiers visiting Obertauern was in 1920. They arrived on foot with their baggage on horse-drawn sleighs. The official founding of the village is recorded as 8 December 1929, when the Tauern Pass started carrying regular traffic. The first lift was installed in 1948 and the tourism industry in the village of Obertauern started to grow, with more lifts and cable cars installed between 1952 and 1961. Interestingly, between 1948 and 1960, skiers prepared the slopes in exchange for runs, before the first motorized trail groomer was introduced. Piste construction with bulldozers in 1967 created part of the present day Tauern Circuit, allowing access for grooming equipment and more tourists. The first snow cannon was installed in 1985 and major upgrading projects were carried out in the latter years of the 20th century.
Obertauern continues to upgrade equipment and facilities, reinforcing its status as one of the top ski resorts in the world, often mentioned on “Best Resort” lists in magazines and on websites dedicated to the snow sport industry.
While artificial ski slopes are not likely to replace the real thing, they can come in very handy for skiing enthusiasts to brush up on their skills out of season, and provide and exciting pastime in areas that don’t traditionally get real snowfall or conditions cold enough to maintain artificially generated snow. Dry ski slopes attempt to mimic the attributes of snow in various ways, and some centers use mist or mini water jets to moisten the slopes to reduce friction and heat buildup and increase speed.
The United Kingdom has quite a number of dry slopes, generally as part of larger sports and entertainment centers. The most commonly used dry slope surfaces are Dendix and Snowflex. Both are made with plastic bristles, but Dendix has diamond-shaped spaces between strips of bristles, while Snowflex has bristles with no gaps. Skiers who have made involuntary contact with the bristles tend to agree that Snowflex is more forgiving than Dendix when falling on it, while those who have enjoyed the real thing agree that snow remains the preferred substance to collide with. Nevertheless, these artificial slopes provide a lot of fun and great opportunities to tone the muscles used in snow skiing while working on the basics of this popular snow sport.
Snow simulators offer another option for skiing without snow. Also referred to as ‘infinite slopes’, snow simulators are available in various sizes and with different levels of capability, from the most simple treadmill-style model, through to slopes that move to increase and decrease the level of decline one would experience when traveling down a real slope. Some even have large screen displays for skiers to focus on to enhance the real ski-slope experience.
Other snowless skiing experiences include roller-skiing, which uses specially adapted skis on wheels to travel on tarmac in much the same way as cross country skiers glide across the snow, and grass skiing which uses skis with rolling treads or wheels to travel downhill over grass. In addition to helping alpine skiers hone their skills, grass skiing has developed into a sport in its own right with competitors vying for the annual Grass Skiing World Cup.
Ski Vermont resorts will not be waiting around for Mother Nature to be gracious enough to deliver snow timeously during the 2014-2015 snow sport season. It was recently announced that resorts represented by non-profit trade association Ski Vermont, together with Efficiency Vermont, will be undertaking a $15 million upgrade of the ski area’s snowmaking system to ensure skiers and riders will be able to hit the slopes when the season begins.
In addition to bringing business to the area, the upgrade makes sense from an environmental point of view. Up to 1,800 older model snow guns will be scrapped and 2,300 new low energy snow guns will be installed for the upcoming season. To determine what models of snow guns would be most suitable to meet Ski Vermont’s goals, engineers from Efficiency Vermont conducted tests on fifteen different models, taking note of water, air and energy consumption, as well as their overall performance. Advances in technology have resulted in new model snow guns using up to 85% less energy to operate than older snowmaking equipment. It is anticipated that the upgraded snow guns will result in saving of around $2 million per annum, while attracting more snow sport enthusiasts to the area, thereby contributing to the economic welfare of the state.
While the energy saving of the new equipment is significant, snow sport fans will no doubt be thrilled that it will produce better quality snow and has the capability to create slopes even when temperatures are above ideal, thereby extending Vermont’s snow skiing and snowboarding season.
Vermont Ski Areas Association President, Parker Riehle, noted that an upgrade of this magnitude has never been seen before, going on to thank Efficiency Vermont for its dedication to the Vermont ski industry. Snow skiing and snowboarding are the official state sports of Vermont, which is a leading international snow sport destination.
The Perisher Cup first took place in 1953 and is one of Australia’s most prestigious ski competitions as well as being a great interclub social weekend. Each four-member team must compete in all three events – Giant Glalom, Cross Country and Jump – to achieve the best aggregate score. For more information visit www.perisher.com.au
Date: 20 September 2014
New South Wales, Australia
Starting with XC Freestyle and XC Relay on Wednesday 10 September, the Subaru Australian Interschools Snowsports Championships include Snowboard GS, Snowboard X, Moguls, Skier X, and Alpine. Online Entries and Volunteer Registrations Close 3 September. For more information and to register visit ausinterschools.com.au/
Dates: 10-14 September 2014
New South Wales, Australia
Open to skiers and boarders from 8 years-old and up, the PlayStation Night Slopestyle Series’ third and last event for the season takes place on 2 September at Perisher. Cash and prizes up for grabs, so don’t miss it. For more information visit www.perisher.com.au
Date: 2 September 2014
State: New South Wales
While Australia’s resorts revel in recent snowfalls, south-east neighbor New Zealand has not been so lucky. With winter entering its third month, some resorts have been unable to open, while others are relying heavily on snow-making equipment. Larger resorts at high altitudes may be able to drum up some business with snow-guns providing cover for slopes, but smaller ski areas, some of which operate as non-profit organizations with the help of volunteers, don’t have snow-making facilities, and even if they did, the warmer than usual winter weather currently being experienced would likely melt any man-made snow.
Even critics of climate change may be obliged to rethink their stance as scientists in various parts of the world call attention to shrinking glaciers and melting permafrost. This has been visibly evident at the iconic Southern Alps Franz Josef glacier, a major attraction in New Zealand’s Westland Tai Poutini National Park. A recent aerial study of New Zealand’s Southern Alps mountain range carried out by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) reveals that since 1977 the region has lost up to 34% of its permanent ice and snow. Although New Zealand’s glaciers have had three periods of growth during the 1970s and 1980s brought about by temporary changes in the Pacific climate system, rising average temperatures have wiped out these growth spurts and are causing glaciers to diminish. This is impacting on tourism, with the Mount Cook area being a prime example, as glacier tours have turned into viewings of floating icebergs.
New Zealand ski operators are definitely being negatively impacted by the country’s warmest weather on record for this time of year, and while remaining hopeful for some late snowfall, some may have to accept the possibility of this season being a washout. Hopefully, one bad season is not the beginning of a trend.
The snow sport industry has been identified by the United Nations Environment Program as being one of the most vulnerable industries when it comes to being affected by climate change. With average winter temperatures rising, and the first snowfalls happening later and later, it is becoming increasingly difficult for resorts to run for the number of days they would have in the past. Even resorts with comprehensive snowmaking equipment are finding temperatures too warm to maintain ski-worthy slopes at the beginning and end of the season. Snow skiing areas at lower elevations appear to be most at risk for losing income, as many lack the resources to deal with the drop in natural snowfall and shortening of snow sport seasons.
Founded in 2007 by Jeremy Jones, a pro snowboarder who took note of resorts closing due to lack of snow, Protect Our Winters (POW) aims to “unite and actively engage the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.” POW launched the “POW Riders Alliance” consisting of fifty-two professional snow sport athletes who are dedicated to fighting climate change. These alliance members are committed to making others – sponsors, fans, students, media, etc. – aware of the problems facing the snow sport industry. POW representatives have been to Capitol Hill to discuss with members of Congress the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon standards, and have hand delivered a letter signed by seventy-five professional athletes to the White House urging President Obama to act on clean energy and climate change.
In addition to numerous other climate change awareness projects, under the banner of the POW7, the organization has compiled a list of seven things individuals can do to fight climate change. Visit the POW website to find out how you can get involved.
This popular annual event features participants competing in their Interschools Division, with medals awarded to the top three female and male competitors in each division. Overall Male, Female, Secondary and Primary ACT School Cups are calculated from points earned. For more information visit snowsportsact.com.au
Date: 7 Sept 2014
State: New South Wales
The Balmain Cup is Australia’s oldest interclub snowsports competition and has been going for 76 years. The program includes slalom, giant slalom, snowboard giant slalom and cross country. The cup was donated in 1936 by the Balmain brothers who ran a bus service in the area. For more information on this exciting evnet visit www.snowsportsact.com.au/Balmain_Cup.html
Date: 30 August 2014
State: New South Wales