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.
Described as a cross between snowboarding and BMX, snowscoots are an exciting and novel addition to the ever-growing array of snow-sport equipment. Consisting of two boards with handlebars and foot straps, snowscoots are highly maneuverable as riders can steer as well as use their body movement to change direction, while reaching similar speeds to those attained by snowboarders and snow skiers. The majority of ski resorts in Europe have sanctioned the use of snowscoots, but North American resorts reportedly have yet to embrace the concept.
The first snowscoot prototype was created in 2003 by Philippe Lasala, who went on to found Black Mountain Downhill Design, the manufacturer and distributor of a range of snowscoots and other equipment. The snowscoot made its debut appearance during the World Cup in Pra-Loup, France, with the first competitions taking place in 2004. The concept was readily accepted by adventurous snow sport fans and by 2006 up to 50% of France’s resorts were offering snowscooting as one of their activities. By 2010, a number of ski areas in Switzerland had sanctioned the use of snowscoots, and it continues to gain thrill-seeking fans.
Snow sport enthusiasts in the UK can try out snowscooting at Chill Factore in Manchester – an indoor snow sport venue with a 180 meter slope boasting real snow. In addition to skiing, snowboarding and snowscooting, snow tubing offers a whole lot of fun with minimal risk. Instructors are on hand for beginners, while more experienced skiers can take the opportunity to brush up on their skills. There is also a Snow Play area and a Snow Park, with organized events increasing the fun factor of an awesome family outing. Certainly, there are many good reasons to add snowscooting to your list of snow-based activities.
Situated at Franconia Notch State Park, the New England Ski Museum has an interesting collection of items relating to the history and development of snow skiing, which are on display for the education and enjoyment of the thousands of visitors who pass through its doors each year. The museum has been operating as a non-profit organization since December 1982, presenting both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Detailing a timeline of skiing from prehistoric times through to the 1990s, the permanent exhibition at the museum is entitled From the First Tracks to the Fall Line: Eight Thousand Years of Skiing.
The permanent display also includes fascinating facts about the history of skiing in New England, listing historic events at Cannon Mountain, and chronicling the career of World Cup alpine skier Bode Miller, who was born in Easton, New Hampshire. Visitors to the museum can view film clips on any of several video screens, selecting from topics that include ski instruction, skiing and snowboarding styles and other items of interest. There are also film clips highlighting the unpredictability of snow and the danger and power of avalanches, with a view to promoting caution and safety when enjoying the great outdoors.
At the entrance of the New England Ski Museum, visitors will see replicas of prehistoric skis which are still used by tribes in Central Asia today. Also on display are K2Fours, popularized by Bode Miller in the mid-1990s, as well as the champion’s five Olympic medals. As the sport grew in the New England area in the 1930s, a number of small businesses developed to cater for visiting skiers. It was also in that decade that the National Ski Patrol (NSP) was formed in order to render first aid services to skiers in need. The NSP became the foundation of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II. Veterans of this military division were the driving force behind many of the ski resorts that were established following the Second World War, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Economic hardships in the 1970s and 1980s led to many of the small ski areas closing down in what is now referred to as the ‘lost ski area’ era.
The New England Ski Museum is open 7 days a week (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas) between 10am and 5pm, starting on Memorial Day and closing at the end of Cannon Mountain’s ski season.
North American snow sport enthusiasts who are planning a mid-year ski break are likely to find just what they are looking for at one of the ski resorts in the South American Andes. Visitors to Chile have three great options just an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Santiago – El Colorado, La Parva and Valle Nevado. These three resorts lead into one another, but operate separately, and skiers who would like to explore them all may want to consider staying in nearby accommodation and devoting at least a full day to each resort.
In recent years Valle Nevado has been transforming itself into the region’s first ‘Mountain Village’ with new and upgraded facilities for the comfort and convenience of guests. The new gondola ferries visitors from the Service Area over a distance of more than one thousand meters to the Bajo Zero Restaurant situated at around 3,200 meters above sea level. Each cable car carries six occupants, thereby minimizing queues waiting to ascend the mountain. Alongside the Bajo Zero gondola station, new beginner trails for adults ensure that visitors of all ages and levels of experience get the most out of time spent at Valle Nevado. Children between the ages of 4 and 9 years can join the Snow School where ski and snowboard instructors are ready to teach beginners the very basics, as well as to help those with more experience to improve their skills.
Valle Nevado’s ‘Learn to Ride’ and ‘Kids Learn to Ride’ centers offer beginners of all ages the opportunity to gain snowboarding skills, using a new method developed by Burton – one of the world’s leading snowboard manufacturers. The Snow Park offers terrain to challenge skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Valle Nevado offers rental of the latest equipment, day-lockers, restrooms, and a shuttle service between the ski service area and nearby hotels. In addition to stocking the very latest in gear, outerwear and accessories, the Ski Shop provides a demo service for customer to try equipment on the slopes before making their purchases. Moreover, the resort offers summer training facilities for ski and snowboard teams, featuring slopeside lodging, athlete-specific meals, training terrain and spa and fitness center services. So, check out the facilities of Chile‘s Valle Nevado if you’re planning to head south for some mid-year skiing.
While it’s still in the feasibility study stage, there are reportedly plans to build an all year around snow sport center at the Philip S. Miller Park in the Colorado town of Castle Rock. With its head office located in West Chester, PA, and branch offices in Colorado Springs and Lakewood, Weston Solutions Inc. has been given the go ahead to conduct a feasibility study for the development of a center that would offer skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing throughout the year using surfaces covered in a synthetic substance known as Snowflex.
In reply to critics who are doubtful people will use the facility, particularly in the winter months when snow is the main draw-card to the area, development director of Weston Solutions, Shawn Temple, noted that the center will introduce new people to the sport, as well as offering facilities for training and progression, improving skiers’ skills before they hit the slopes. Temple also pointed out that local skiers who may not have the time to travel to the mountains to enjoy snow sports, can fit in an hour or two of skiing or snowboarding on the synthetic surface after work or at other convenient times.
Should the four-season ski center materialize, it will include Snowflex skiing surfaces covering 107,00 square feet; a Snowflex bunny slope; a Snowflex tubing run; and a mountain bike course. There will also be a lodge, restaurant and bar, and visitors will have ample parking allowing easy access to the center.
As per assistant director of parks and recreation in Castle Rock, Jeff Brauer, Weston Solution’s proposals will be reviewed every six months over the next two years and if they present a proposal, complete with financial backing, within the two year time period, then the seven member town council will vote on it.
As ski-biking becomes more popular, an increasing number of North American ski resorts and ski areas are opening up trails to this exciting sport. Durango Mountain Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains has been featuring ski-biking as a winter activity for some time now, offering lessons, rentals and spectacular terrain for a whole lot of family fun (minimum age is 12 years-old). Because of the level of stability afforded by three contact points with the snow, ski-biking is generally easier to learn and safer than skiing (although tuition is strongly recommended), making it an ideal activity for skiers who don’t get to the slopes as often as they would like to. It is also a lot kinder to the knees, allowing skiers with knee problems the opportunity to enjoy the slopes for longer without discomfort.
The fact that ski-biking is generally safer, does not mean it is boring or doesn’t require skill. Ski-bikes have been specially developed to travel and maneuver with speed, and stop abruptly when required in much the same way as conventional skiers do, so riders need to be in control of their ski-bikes at all times. As with any other snow sport, having the correct equipment is very important. Ideally, when sitting on the ski-bike, the upper part of the rider’s body should be parallel to the position of the lower legs with knees lower than the hip joint. Feet are attached to short skis and riders should grip the saddle with their knees, keeping the short skis, or ‘gliders’ close to the ski-bike. Instructors will demonstrate turns and stopping, ensuring the new ski-biker is competent and confident before heading for the slopes.
Because ski-biking is still a relatively new and unusual sport, it may be viewed with some mistrust by others on the ski slopes. So, as ambassadors of the sport, it is essential that ski-bikers are courteous and follow slope rules to the letter. For more information on ski-biking in North America, visit the American SkiBike Association website.
Held in Koenigsee, Berchtesgadener Land, Bavaria, the 2014 wok racing championships – WOK WM 2014 – took place on March 8, with the gold medal going to Joey Kelly, silver to Georg Hackl and bronze to Armin Zöggeler. The team event was won by Otelo team with the four-member team from Jamaica comprised of Hanukkah Wallace, Marvin Dixon, Seldwyn Morgan and Wayne Blackwood. Georg Hackl’s speed record of 88.2 km/h set in 2012 remains unbroken. The four-person-woksled speed record of 97 km/h was set in 2006 by FROSTA team.
Wok racing is exactly what the name suggests – competitors seated in a Chinese cooking wok, racing down a bobsleigh track. Initiated by German entertainer and television host Stefan Raab, the wok racing championship has taken place annually since 2003, when Raab won the gold medal at the host venue in Winterberg. It should come as no surprise that the most enthusiastic supporters of wok racing are skilled lugers who are accustomed to hurtling down tracks at breakneck speed, at times reaching speeds of 140 km/h. The highest recorded speed of a luger was 154 km/h, set by Manuel Pfister of Austria at Canada‘s Whistler track. Of the three 2014 winners, both Georg Hackl and Armin Zöggeler are Olympic champions, while Kelly participates in a number of challenging sports including multi-discipline endurance events.
High-quality Chinese cooking woks are used in wok racing, with modifications being epoxy reinforcement of the bottom and polyurethane foam along the edges to prevent injury. Team woksleds consist of two pairs of woks held together by a frame, and the two pairs connected by a coupling. Much as in luge events, steering of the wok is done with shifting weight and body movements. Competitors wear well-padded protective gear and full-face helmets. To reduce friction competitors wear ladles under their feet, and woks are sometimes heated underneath with a blowtorch to enhance performance.
While it’s unlikely wok racing will become a winter Olympics sport anytime soon, it is a whole lot of fun for both competitors and spectators.
Considered to be one of the finest alpine ski racers in history, Hermann Maier is the holder of two gold medals earned at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games and one silver medal earned at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, as well as four overall World Cup titles – 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004. He also has numerous World Cup titles in other disciplines, including the World Cup Super-G title for 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004.
Born in Altenmarkt im Pongau, Salzburg, Austria on December 7, 1972, Maier was introduced to skiing at a young age through his father’s skiing school. He showed great promise with his technique and at the age of 15 he was accepted into the Austrian national ski academy. Due to problems with his knees and his smaller than average size, he was dropped from the program and he returned to Flachau, competingin local races and becoming a regional champion in Tyrol and Salzburg.
In January 1996, he achieved the 12th fastest time in a giant slalom event in Flachau, which brought him to the attention of the coaches of the Austrian World Cup ski team and launched his international competitive ski career. On February 10, 1996, Maier made his World Cup debut at Hinterstoder, Austria, finishing 26th in the giant slalom. In February 1997, he won the World Cup Super-G race in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and in 1998 he won gold medals for both the giant slalom and Super-G at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. What makes his victories even more noteworthy is that they took place only days after he flew off the course of a downhill race and went tumbling head over heels a few times before crashing through two stretches of B-netting, walking away unscathed. The crash and his gold medal achievements brought him to the attention of the sporting world and he made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the byline “Thrills and Spills – The Olympics as You’ve Never Seen Them”.
Maier’s career went from strength to strength and in 2000 he won the World Cup title, as well as the title for downhill, Super-G and giant slalom, setting a record of the most points garnered by an alpine skier in a World Cup title. (His record of 2000 points was broken in 2013 by Tina Maze who scored 2414 points.) In 2001, Maier repeated his World Cup wins and gained silver and bronze medals at the 2001 World Championships held in St Anton.
In August 2001, Maier was in a serious motorcycle accident which required lengthy reconstruction surgery and rehabilitative therapy. However, he returned to international competitive skiing in January 2003, winning the Super-G at Kitzbühel, Austria. His amazing recovery and return to competitive skiing was acknowledged by the 2004 Laureus World Sport Award for the “Comeback of the Year” after he reclaimed both the overall World Cup title and the Super-G title. It’s no wonder that he is sometimes referred to as ‘The Herminator’.
Following several more victories, and having made an indelible mark on the history of the sport of snow skiing, Hermann Maier announced his retirement from competitive skiing in October 2009.
With days getting a little longer and temperatures warming up, spring in Vermont offers skiers and snowboarders loads of opportunities to get some skiing in before summer arrives. Up to 80 percent of the ski areas in Vermont have snowmaking facilities to supplement the snowfall experienced this winter, and more snow is forecast, all of which is likely to extend the snow skiing season at least to the end of March, possibly into early April.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort is offering some great family packages, with the lowest rates of the season applying from March 14 through to April 5, 2014. Ski and stay packages includes condominium lodging, daily lift tickets, and access to the resort’s indoor pool and hot tubs. They also offer snow tubing and an indoor FunZone with games and gigantic inflatables for the younger family members.
It’s not too late to grab some fun time at Stratton Mountain Resort. Specials include a Kids Ski and Stay Free offer for children 17 years old and younger, on condition that two adults purchase lodging and lift packages. Also, don’t miss the action of the 24 Hours of Stratton skiathon on March 15.
Sugarbush Resort is running a “Show Us Yours, We’ll Show You Ours” initiative where skiers presenting passes for other mountains will be given a discount on lift tickets – offering the perfect opportunity to experience this popular resort in what many consider to be the best time of the year.
From March 17 to the closing day of the season, Okemo Mountain Resort’s Spring Skiesta Card allows cardholders unlimited snow skiing and snowboarding. Plus, if cardholders buy a 2014/15 season pass by April 30, 2014, the price they paid for the Spring Skiesta Card ($99) will be applied as a discount.
Killington Resort’s offer for March 15 through to the end of the 2013/2014, dubbed the 2014 Nor’Beaster, offers snow skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts unlimited skiing and riding, live music and discounted lodging. The Nor’Beaster kicks off with a Shamrock Scavenger Hunt in honor of St Patrick’s Day, followed by a host of fun events such as the Ski Bum Race Series, Life is Good Nor’Beaster Festival, a Woodward Mini Camp for 7-19 year-olds, and much, much more.
Other Vermont ski areas and resorts offering specials to wind down the season include, Magic Mountain, Middlebury College Snow Bowl, Bromley Mountain, Jay Peak Resort and Bolton Valley.