This season will be remembered for its meteorological mood swings. Despite little snow in much of Europe in early December, winter 2011/12 finally got off to a good start in most resorts before Christmas. Heavy November snowfall in western North America was matched by the Alps in mid-December with resorts receiving up to 135 centimetres in a week. All five Scottish centres were able to open before Christmas, too, for the second year in a row.
In a transatlantic switch-over from last winter, the US (although not Canada) subsequently suffered from limited snowfall while Europe has experienced record falls. Now, though, significant snowfall has resumed in most areas.
Alpine resorts are well set up for the rest of the season. Snow depth on the mountain tops at St Anton is around six metres, and some resorts, such as Nauders (nauders.com) in Austria, are reporting the most January snow for 60 years. This has led to travel problems, with resorts including Zermatt (zermatt.ch), cut off for several days this month. Overall, though, it's good news for tour operators, who will be hoping this will be skiing's bounce-back season, following three seasons of decline.
Use your head
Legislation in France, Italy and, recently, New Jersey in the US – yes, it has a skiing area, Mountain Creek (mountaincreek.com) – has made helmet-wearing a legal requirement for children. However, from next winter, anyone skiing or riding in Nova Scotia in Eastern Canada, which has four small ski areas, will have to "put a lid on". It's the first region worldwide to make helmets compulsory for adults as well.
The Revelstoke resort(revelstokemountainresort .com) in British Columbia made headlines a few years back by taking the "biggest lift-served vertical drop in North America" title from its provincial rival, Whistler. This year it's moving away from its "tough runs only" image, with a new beginners' area. There's also the new Revelstoke Outdoors Centre, which contains "fun play structures", a new childcare facility for children aged from 18 months and an après-ski family activities programme making use of a new tubing hill.
Flushed with success
England has half-a-dozen small ski areas on northern hills, each with a tow lift or two and all benefiting from the return to snowy winters. They are Allenheads (ski-allenheads.co.uk), Castleside (01207 502 680), Harwood Common (harwoodski.webs.com), Swinhope Moor (skiweardale.com) and Yad Moss (yadmoss.co.uk) – plus the flanks of Raise near Helvellyn. Here Lake District Ski Club (ldscsnowski.co.uk) is celebrating 75 years of skiing at 760 metres by building the first flushing toilet beside the slopes. "We think there is only one higher flushing lavatory in England and that's in the Civil Aviation Authority's radar building on Great Dun Fell, near Penrith," said committee member, Roger Newbold.