Snow joke: mild weather brings chaos to start of ski season

Thrill-seekers are told to aim high for any hope of catching some decent action on the slopes

"Had enough of ski resorts with no snow?" asks an ad in the current easyJet inflight magazine. It was placed by the resort of Val Thorens in the confident expectation it would open on the third weekend of November. But that was postponed because the resort – like much of the Alps – has experienced the warmest and driest autumn for decades.

From the Pyrenees to the Balkans, the unseasonably warm autumn means many mountains are bare. Rosemary Leonard, a British skier in Switzerland, reported with only slight exaggeration: "No snow anywhere in the Alps – bad news for early-season skiers."

Resorts in the Alps are looking much the same as when last season ended, with patches of green, brown and raw rock rather than a coating of snow. The upmarket French resort of Val d'Isere has no snow on the lower pistes, and at higher altitudes the last snowfall was just three inches on 9 November.

Resorts across Andorra were due to open last Saturday, but that has been postponed by at least a week; the country, which has Europe's highest average altitude, had two inches of snow three weeks ago, and nothing since.

But other ski resorts are reporting an optimistic start. Hemsedal in Norway opened at the weekend with its traditional "snow dance" ceremony, with fresh falls also reported in other Norwegian resorts and in Sweden.

Patrick Thorne of skiinfo.co.uk advised anyone hoping for a pre-Christmas break to "aim high, in latitude or altitude, or go to North America".

Resorts from New England to California were open through the Thanksgiving weekend. Yesterday at Killington in Vermont, conditions were described as spring-like, with "sunshine and soft snow," while Mammoth was reporting an excellent snow base that began building early in October. Revelstoke in British Columbia was not due to open until next weekend, but opened for a "sneak peek" on Saturday. By yesterday it had received 10 feet of snow since winter began.

Some skiers camped overnight at the foot of the mountain on Friday in order to make the first runs when it opened. The ski industry has endured a torrid few years. Recession combined with the weakness of sterling has deterred all but the most committed skiers and boarders from getting their annual fix.

A hard core of one million regular British skiers is usually augmented by several hundred thousand people trying the sport for the first time. Their absence has hit Eastern European resorts hard: Bulgaria and Romania are regarded as beginners' territory because of their low prices compared with more traditional resorts.

Even the UK is faring better than some parts of the Alps. Patrick Thorne of skiinfo.co.uk reported: "Snow on the hills here in Scotland this morning."

White stuff: where to go to find snow

Alyeska, Alaska

Barely above sea level, has had more than 12 feet of snow since the start of October. More is forecast over the next three days.

Mount Elbrus, Russia

Claims the lowest temperatures and deepest snow in the skiing world. At 18,510 feet, it is the highest mountain in Europe.

Trysil, Norway

Opened this weekend. "We had good snowfall over the past few days," reports Ben Nyberg of SkiNorway. "The forecast is looking excellent with colder weather on the way."

Whistler, western Canada

Has had five feet of snow in the past week; yesterday was declared a "Gore-tex day" in the British Columbia resort because of extremely strong, cold winds.

Zermatt, Switzerland

A year-round resort thanks to its high-altitude glaciers – the ski area was extended this weekend to 45 miles of pistes. "We've got snow, great snow," claims the management.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?