Often referred to as “Sunny South Africa”, this diverse multicultural country on the southern tip of the African continent is generally not readily associated with snow skiing. However, there are snow skiing options in the country, at least one of which is available all year around – The Ski Deck in Ferndale, Gauteng. Facilities at the Ski Deck include wet surface ski slopes, a 20m static ski slope and the country’s first fully computerized simulator, dubbed The Sky Tek Power Carver – for ski and snowboard training. Additionally, The Ski Deck has an on-site shop offering top imported brands in ski clothing.
With a guaranteed 30,000m of skiing slopes, and 30 years of teaching experience on tap, The Ski Deck offers the quickest, and safest, methods of mastering skiing and snowboarding skills. Skiers in South Africa who are planning to head to Northern Hemisphere slopes for a skiing vacation can jump-start their experience by learning skiing and snowboarding techniques beforehand. This means more time on the slopes at their destination, and a whole lot more confidence in tackling the real thing.
Another advantages of learning to ski or snowboard at The Ski Deck include having an instructor on hand, providing pointers and giving correction where needed. Also, with no waiting for ski lifts to take them back to the top of a ski resort slope, students can pack a whole lot of skiing into a short space of time, perfecting their rhythm and turns. Beginners will find this particularly helpful, as learning on snow is subject to changing weather conditions and the sometimes difficult task of making their way back up the slope after each descent.
Experienced skiers can practice their skills on The Sky Tec Power Carver, ensuring they are in good shape when hitting the slopes at their favorite resort. Skiers of all levels of competency can practice their skills all year around, thereby strengthening and toning muscles used for skiing, but not necessarily in everyday life. No more aches and pains to hinder skiers as they rediscover muscles they’d forgotten they had.
Snow sport enthusiasts don’t need to leave the country to enjoy snow skiing. Reservations for the 2014 ski season at Tiffendell in the Eastern Cape Highlands of South Africa are now open. So make your booking and start honing those snow skiing skills.
Skate-skiing offers adventure seeking snow sport enthusiasts something different to try their hand at on groomed trails and it is fast gaining in popularity at a number of North American ski resorts. Although it is possible to skate-ski on cross country skis, it’s not ideal and skiers won’t get the true effect of the sport. Likewise, skate-skis are not suitable for cross country skiing, so while skate skiing has the advantage of speed, it does restrict skiers to groomed trails, which some classic skiers may not enjoy. Nevertheless, it is worth trying for the thrill of it.
The skier’s height and weight will both be factors in choosing the correct length of skate-skis, which are generally around 10cm shorter than cross-country skis. They need to be shorter and lighter as the skate-skier must lift them up off the snow for each forward stride, but they do need to be long enough to deliver stability and glide. Skate-skis are generally between 41mm and 45mm wide, as the narrower the ski, the higher the speed. Adding to the speed is the fact that skate-skis generally fit into established tracks and skiers can use these to gather momentum downhill.
On most skis the waist of the ski is the narrowest part, but skating skis are often wider at the waist to facilitate the skating motion. The camber, or arch, of skate-skis is less pronounced than that of touring skis allowing skate-skiers to push off the skis’ edges effectively. Also, skate-skis are less flexible than touring skis. Because of the twisting action of the skate-skiing technique, boots used in this sport offer more ankle support and have stiffer soles.
Poles used in skate-skiing should be sturdy and around 90 percent of the skate-skiers height, or from the ground up to between the chin and lips, which is different from touring poles which reach to the armpits. This allows the skate-skier to use major muscle groups in upper body and abdomen to propel forward.
As there are marked differences between classic forms of snow skiing and skate-skiing, skiers who would like to try this exciting sport are advised to have some professional tuition before hitting the slopes.
Canadian ski resorts are enjoying excellent snowfall this season, attracting a host of snow sport enthusiasts from Europe, as many European resorts experienced a slow start to the season. Many resorts in North America have been enjoying extensive snowfall, with the Polar Vortex keeping temperatures low, much to the delight of skiers. The fact that the English Pound/Canadian Dollar is very much in favor of travelers from Britain is quoted as another factor in the spike in bookings at Canadian resorts.
But as long-time skiers will tell you, snow conditions can change very quickly, and this was the case at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, VT. The area started off with good snowfall in December, but in recent days rain has washed the remaining snowfall off the slopes. The Vermont Ski Areas Association confirmed that there have been more closed trails in the area this January than last. With minimal snowmaking equipment and communities who depend on snow to make a living, everyone is hoping some ‘white gold’ will fall.
Warm weather and poor snowfall have caused Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps to cancel a race which forms part of the Alpine Ski World Championships which were scheduled for the last weekend in January. Although the area has extensive snowmaking facilities, the weather has been too warm to even attempt to keep the slopes covered. German economic geography professor, Jürgen Schmude, is of the opinion that changes in the weather could drastically impact Germany’s ski industry as skiers head east in search of more snow. He predicts that by the year 2050 it is very likely that only Germany‘s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, will have snow for skiing. Whether this bleak prediction will become a reality remains to be seen, but in the meantime communities who rely on ski tourism to make a living watch the weather anxiously and skiers chase the snow wherever it leads them.
As snow starts falling in the Northern Hemisphere, weekend warriors are dusting off their skis and snowboards and heading for the slopes in increasing numbers. While keeping fit all year round is the best solution for avoiding painfully rediscovering muscles you haven’t used since last ski season, if you haven’t been doing that, experts recommend that skiers and snowboarders start an exercise program prior to hitting the slopes – and it’s never too late to start.
Cardio endurance is essential if you want to get the most you can out of your costly lift ticket. Preparing your body and your heart for a full day’s skiing should include a cardio-focused workout such as running, step aerobics, rollerblading, using an elliptical trainer or stair-master three to five times a week. Workouts should vary in intensity and last between 20 and 45 minutes, with a 60 minute workout once a week to build both strength and endurance. Muscular strength is essential in allowing you to relax into the experience of skiing, while maintaining control and being capable of making the split second adjustments required when negotiating uneven terrain.
While leg strength is important, skiers and snowboarders also need to stretch the upper body, and the core twist is excellent for this. Standing with your knees slightly bent, cross your arms in front of you and slowly look over one shoulder while letting your body follow until a good stretch is felt in your back and side. Hold this position for at least five seconds before repeating on the other side. Include some quadriceps and hamstring stretches in your routine.
Balance boards are a fun and effective way to prepare for time on the snow-covered slopes of your favorite ski resort. Other equipment for balance training includes wobble boards, medicine balls, balance trainers and slide boards. So, start exercising today. Even a short period of pre-slope exercise is better than nothing at all!
Developed by Jackie Paaso, Lel Tone, Elyse Saugstad, Michelle Parker, Sherry McConkey and Ingrid Backstrom, S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics aim to raise snow safety and avalanche risk awareness among snow sport enthusiasts, particularly female snow sport enthusiasts. The name of the organization – Skiers Advocating and Fostering Education for Avalanche and Snow Safety (S.A.F.E. A.S.) – says it all, and with loads of experience between the six founders, they provide a welcoming environment where communication and participation are encouraged.
Swiss-born Lel Tone is the lead instructor of S.A.F.E. A.S. and has been involved in the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol since 1994, as well as being the Assistanct Avalanche Forecaster for the area since 2004. Her qualifications and experience include being a heli ski guide, a California-licensed Avalanche Blaster and an Avalanche control route leader at Squaw, as well as being a qualified Level 1 and Level 2 Avalanche Instructor through AIARE – American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. Lel’s advice to skiers is to listen to and respect Mother Nature, remembering that she calls all the shots.
As a professional skier, Jackie Paaso has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride Team since 2009. She competes on the Freeride World Tour, with her wins including the 2010 Squaw Tram Face event and the 2012 Chamonix event. She has completed the AIARE Level 1 course and explored the Norwegian Arctic as part of Warren Miller Entertainment’s crew for the movie Flow State.
Raised in Girdwood, Alaska, Elyse Saugstad is a professional skier specializing in freeride and backcountry skiing. She earned the Freeride World Tour Champion title in 2008 and has notched up a number of International Freeride Competition victories during her successful career, as well as working with ski film companies and Chugach Powder Guides.
Ingrid Backstrom is a professional big mountain skier, appearing in Matchstick Productions movies, Warren Miller Entertainment Films, and Rocky Mountain Sherpas. The ski destinations Ingrid has been fortunate to visit include Antarctica, Pakistan, Greenland, Baffin Island and China. She has completed the AIARE Level 1 course.
Born and raised in Squaw Valley, Michelle Parker has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride team since 2006 and features in a number of productions by Matchstick Productions, including the film Superheroes of Stoke. Michelle has completed an AIARE L1 course and spends most of her time outdoors, following the snow between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Outdoor enthusiast Sherry McConkey uses her knowledge and experience as a teacher of Anusara yoga to help athletes with therapeutic stretching and yoga movements that focus on realignment, healing the body, gaining strength and clearing the mind. Sherry is the founder of the Tahoe-based non-profit organization, the Shane McConkey Foundation. She is currently completing the AIARE L1 course.
Visit the S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics Website for information on current events and classes.
Located primarily in Austria, the ski region of Tyrol features no less than 500 peaks rising more than 3,000 meters above sea level. More than one hundred alpine ski resorts with more than 5,200 kilometers of skiable terrain, catering for a wide range of snow sport activities, can be found in Tyrol, making it one of the world’s most popular winter destinations. Resorts that consistently feature in the Top Ten ski destinations in Tyrol include Sölden, Hintertuxer Gletscher, Stubaier Gletscher, Ischgl, Mayrhofen, Pitztaler Gletscher, Serfaus, Kitzbühel, Obergurgl and St Anton.
Sölden lies in the midst of three mountains – Gaislachkogl, Tiefenbachkogl and Schwarze Schneide – all of which are over 3,000 meters in height. They are often referred to as the “Big 3″. The altitude of the skiable area ranges from 1,377 to 3,250 meters and incorporates two spectacular glacier ski areas. All slopes below 2,200 meters have snow-making machines to supplement natural snowfall, and 33 state-of-the-art lift systems ensure that skiers get to the slopes with minimum delay. As a World Cup host, Sölden is well equipped to ensure that large numbers of skiers are catered for in comfort.
While winter is high season at Hintertuxer Gletscher, the resort offers skiing 365 days of the year – the only resort in Austria to do so. With breathtaking panoramic views of the dolomites, and impressive ski runs and terrain parks, the Hintertux Glacier should be on every snow sport enthusiasts list of places to visit. The glacier circuit features 72,000 meters of descent and there is a network of lifts and other transport options to allow easy access to the entire resort.
Tyrol’s Stubaier Gletscher (Stubai Glacier) is the largest of Austria’s glacier skiing areas. It offers 110 kilometers of pistes with options for beginners right through to the most experienced of skiers. Snow is guaranteed from October through to June each year, with snow-making machines ensuring sufficient snow cover and enjoyment for all.
Covering an area with the altitude of between 1,377 and 2,872 meters, Ischgl is promoted as one of the biggest interconnected ski areas in Tyrol, with the Silvretta-Arena being its main attraction. In addition to its impressive ski areas and high-tech lift and cable car systems, Ischgl offers a range of events, concerts, shopping and other entertainment.
Certainly, snow skiing enthusiasts could spend a lifetime exploring Tyrol and never tire of the experience.
With an average of more than 300 inches of snow, along with around 300 days of sunshine each year, Telluride Ski Resort is a popular snow sport destination in the mountains of Colorado. Founded in 1878, Telluride was an important trading post during the gold rush era, but with the mines shutting down in 1953, families moved away and the town was all but deserted until, thanks to a wealthy entrepreneur named Joe Zoline, the snow-covered mountains were turned into a ski area boasting five lifts and a day lodge. Ever since, Telluride has kept up with the times, making improvements for the benefit of snow sport enthusiasts who visit each year, and there are a number of enhancements and new features visitors can look forward to in the 2013-2014 snow skiing season.
In recent years, Telluride has been marketed as being “Unmatched in North America“, but the resort has chosen to use the tagline of “The Most Beautiful Place You’ll Ever Ski” for the new season. Director of Telluride’s public relations and communications, Tom Watkinson, noted that the tagline was chosen to focus on the natural surroundings of the resort, which is an aspect guests appreciate and value.
To ensure that skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts spend less time traveling, flights to the two local airports – Telluride and Montrose – will be increased in the winter months. Round-trip flights will be offered between Montrose and Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston, while Great Lake Airlines will continue to operate flights between Denver and Telluride. This initiative promoted by the Colorado Flights Alliance will overcome the challenge of gaining access to the relatively remote ski area.
During the off-season period Telluride spent $1 million upgrading snowmaking facilities and increasing its number of snow-guns. These upgrades mean that more snow can be made much faster and with less waste – all good news for skiers and riders itching to hit the slopes. With snowmaking crews working 24-hours a day in 12-hour shifts, snowmaking is set to start in late October, continuing through to February. New grooming equipment is ready to start preparing the slopes as soon as they are covered in snow. So, make your plans now for a snow skiing holiday at Telluride in Colorado.
Fans are no doubt delighted at the news that Lindsey Vonn is back on the slopes again, more than six months after her knee surgery. The four-time World Cup Overall Champion recently tested out her skills on the slopes in Portillo, Chile, and proved that her recovery is way ahead of schedule, putting her in line to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics taking place in March next year. The US Team is busy with a two-week training camp in Chile and Vonn intends to get plenty of practice during this time.
The road to recovery has not been an easy one for Vonn who damaged her ACL and MCL ligaments when she wiped out at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, in March this year. She has spent four hours a day in the gym focusing on rehabilitative exercises to heal her right knee. She also took up the hobby of fly-fishing which helped her to remain calm and focused as she worked toward her goal of regaining her strength and getting back to the sport she has dedicated herself to.
In the year 2000, at the age of 16, Lindsey Vonn made her World Cup debut. She went on to compete at the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics, claiming her first World Cup title in 2008, repeating the performance in 2009, 2010 and 2012, and going down in history as the second American woman to win four World Cup overall titles. At the 2010 Winter Olympics Vonn won the gold medal in downhill, the first time ever that this event has been won by an American woman. Her other World Cup achievements include 6 titles in the downhill discipline, four titles in Super G, and 3 titles in the combined. She has won World Cup races in all five alpine skiing disciplines, being one of only six women to have done so in World Cup history.
Vonn hopes to return to competition at Beaver Creek, Colorado, (near her hometown of Vail) in late November – a few months ahead of Sochi. A recent post on Vonn’s Facebook page announced “I’m on the road to Sochi and I’m not slowing down!”
The Lahti Ski Museum, located at the foot of the Lahti Sports Center ski-jump ramps, was started in 1958 by veterans of the Lahden Hiihtoseura skiing club in Finland and officially founded in 1974. The first permanent exhibition for the museum was set up in the club’s old sauna, and as the museum collection grew, a new building designed by Esko Hämäläinen was built and opened to the public in November 1989. In the year 2000, the façade of the building was renovated and an 80-seat auditorium and restaurant were added. Today, visitors can enjoy a range of activities and discover fascinating facts about snow sport at the Lahti Ski Museum.
The permanent exhibition at the museum offers insight into the history of competitive skiing in Finland. It highlights prominent personalities in snow sport history, and displays examples of skiing equipment through the ages, giving visitors the opportunity to see the advances that have been made in ski safety and utility. There is a saying that every Finn has the desire to participate in the Lahti Ski Games at least once in a lifetime, and this is evidenced by the displays dedicated to this iconic annual event. Through multi-media displays and exhibitions of relevant memorabilia, visitors have the opportunity to ‘meet’ pioneering and famous sportsmen and sportswomen who have excelled in various categories of snow sports. Items on display include skis, sticks, bindings, items of clothing, flags, skates, books, photographs, stamps and more. The museum is also entrusted with taking care of the records of the Lahti Ski Club and Finnish Ski Association.
Activities include a simulation of the highest ski-jump in Lahti where visitors can experience the thrill of speeding down the slope and hurtling through the air – but without the risks. The simulator measures the participant’s weight and adjusts the experience accordingly. The distance of the jump is measured by the point used for takeoff. Visitors can even compete against one another as to who makes the longest jump. A downhill skiing simulator is also available for visitors to experience of this popular type of snow skiing, while an optical gun gives participants a chance to try out the fast-paced sport of biathlon. Certainly, there are many reasons to visit the family-friendly Lahti Ski Museum in Finland.
Located in the spectacular Pennine Alps, the Klein Matterhorn is the second highest peak in Switzerland‘s Zermatt-Cervinia ski area and boasts Europe’s highest cable car – a fact which is advertised on a billboard at the 3,883 meter summit. The panoramic view from this summit is breathtaking, and with generous snow cover all year round, the Klein Matterhorn is a popular destination with snow sport enthusiasts. Promoted as the ‘Matterhorn Glacier Paradise’, the peak of the Klein Matterhorn is part of the Plateau Rosa glacier on the border of Italy and Switzerland.
Europe’s highest cable car had to overcome many obstacles before it was constructed. After negotiating with the Swiss Nature Conservation Society and the Swiss Alpine Club, two areas (Matterhorn and Monte Rosa) were designated as protected zones, with a third area being approved for tourism development. Objections by the citizens of Zermatt and environmentalists caused delays in granting the license for the cable car construction, with permission being granted in December 1973.
With the red-tape out of the way, the next challenge was to recruit workers who were willing and able to labor at the high altitudes of the three construction sites – the lower terminal, tower sites and mountain terminal. The construction eventually started in August 1976. The terminal at the peak proved to be the most challenging task, with up to 2,000 cubic meters of concrete being transported by helicopter to the site. To accommodate the below freezing temperatures, the concrete was mixed with warm water and anti-freeze before being ferried in insulated tanks to the site. Workers had to contend with temperatures that dropped below 40 degrees Celsius, and winds that reached a speed of more than 100 km/h. By the summer of 1977 the project was ready for the installation of the 35.8 kilometers of cables that would carry the two 100-passenger cabins.
In December 1979, the cable car carried its first passengers to the summit of Klein Matterhorn. Since then an average of 560,000 people visit the summit of Klein Matterhorn each year, many of whom make their way through the tunnel in the mountain to the ski slopes of one of Europe‘s most beautiful ski areas. If you have the good fortune to be among the skiers enjoying this experience, give a thought to the workers who made this possible under very challenging circumstances.