Snow report: 08/11/09
Sunday 08 November 2009
When belief in climate change hit the media's "tipping point" two years ago, a couple of examples of evidence were cited. First, an international report which announced snow levels in the Alps were set to rise, with Kitzbühel, as a low ski area, the highest-profile victim. Second, the small French resort of Abondance, said it would not open for the 2008-2009 season, which the Associated Press seized on as proof it was a climate-change victim.
But heavy snowfalls mean the slopes at Kitzbühel, in Austria, have had their earliest opening in the resort's 80-year history. Abondance will also reopen this season thanks to a US investor, which means that simple economics rather than climate change was probably the issue there.
These are not the only resorts bringing good news. Snow reporting agency skiinfo.co.uk has been flashing out powder alarms for heavy snowfall across the northern hemisphere, with resorts already open right across Europe and North America.
This does not mean climate change isn't happening, just that we need to follow long-term trends and take long-term action. One thing you can do is travel by train. It would help if it were easier to book well ahead or if train information were easier to find. To that end we welcome the launch of snowcarbon.co.uk, to provide practical info on many more routes and destinations than just the excellent Eurostar service to the Alps. It also calculates how much less CO2 your trip will generate than flying, or even sharing a car.
However you get to the Alps, you will, of course, want the best ski holiday possible. Some guidance has been provided by a recent competition among tour operators, which saw French specialist Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170; peakretreats.co.uk) take top spot with an impressive 97.9 per cent user satisfaction rating. The firm specialises in traditional French villages that are lift-linked to the giant ski areas. Its attention to detail, high service standards and low prices seem to be paying off.
Peak Retreats doesn't yet offer Abondance, but if you want to ski there for the re-opening you could stay in one of the Portes du Soleil resorts that the company can arrange (Les Gets and Morzine), then pop over for a day. While in the area, enjoy one of the day-long ski safari routes of the giant Portes du Soleil region (pictured), between its dozen ski villages that straddle the French/Swiss border with 650 kilometres of piste.
For an in-depth knowledge of climate change, you might prefer being one of the two young people (aged 18-28) selected to join polar explorer Robert Swan, president of the Ski Club of Great Britain (0845 45 807 80; skiclub.co.uk) and the first man to walk to both North and South Poles, on his 2010 Inspire Antarctic Expedition next March. Candidates must complete a proposal to take part and raise £9,000 to fund their place alongside an international team on a two-week journey through the Antarctic Peninsula as part of Swan's 2041 campaign. This is the latest initiative from Swan, who is dedicated to the preservation of Antarctica by engaging with industry and young people on action to combat climate change.
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