Snow Report: The new season delivers fresh areas to explore

Resorts in Austria, Italy and North America are creating new domains and adding extra slopes, says Patrick Thorne

This winter there's a novelty in Europe and North America: new pistes to ski. Top of the list of fresh possibilities is in Austria: a whole new area, the Tirolean "Ski Jewel" (skijuwel.com), which opens on 14 December. It's been created by linking the ski areas of Alpbach and Wildschönau (better known in UK brochures as Niederau, Auffach and Oberau). A new lift and ski run have helped to create a single area with 145km (90 miles) of piste.

Between 1960 and 1980, the amount of mountainside in Europe and North America that was transformed into ski slopes was remarkable. Thousands of ski areas opened, creating more than 10,000km of piste across formerly little-used land. But then came market saturation, a demand for a higher-quality winter holiday experience – and in some places the available land just ran out.

For the past three decades, ski resorts have been fine-tuning their offers. They've added alternative activities; faster, more comfortable lifts; better accommodation; and, above all, snow-making systems to ensure season-long snow cover.

Ski Jewel was 11 years in planning and has cost the communities concerned €13.5m (£10.8m). According to the resort directors, it was a hard-fought battle, but one they felt needed to be won if their ski resorts were going to stay in business.

"Together we have a chance to survive," said Peter Hausberger, managing director of the Bergbahnen Alpbachtal. "For the Wildschönau and the Alpbachtal to have a future, they both need to offer a modern and sustainable ski area and a natural experience."

The "new" area is in the Tirolean top 10 (out of 80 ski areas) in terms of size, but the operators are keen to stress that lift passes remain affordable. A six-day adult pass costs €197 (£158). Most larger areas are well past the €200 mark for six days. (Children are free up to the age of seven, and qualify for half price until age 15).

While Austria has a new ski area this winter, several of Italy's leading resorts are getting bigger. Cervinia, Madonna di Campiglio and the giant Dolomiti Superski region have announced they've converted about 15km more mountainside, with 10 separate new ski slopes between them. The reason for building new pistes is explained by Diego Clara of Dolomiti Superski (dolomitisuper ski.com). "If there are new lifts, such as the new Lorenzi gondola above Kronplatz, the extra lift capacity can mean the old slope gets overcrowded, so they need another slope to handle the increased skier traffic."

Whether the new pistes result in bigger totals in the "overall kilometre of piste" figure published by big ski regions remains to be discovered. Some regions measure precisely their skiable kilometre total every time a new run is added; others stick to a round number. Dolomiti Superski, one of the world's largest, with 1,200km of runs, is in the latter camp: the number won't change despite 6km of new slopes for 2012-13.

"The 1,200km of slopes is a figure we use for marketing. The exact figure may be more than 1,200km, but we think that 1,200km is a good number to communicate," said Clara.

A little to the west, Madonna di Campiglio (campigliodolomiti.it) is creating three new ski runs. The most significant is the new Pancugolo run, which features a steep initial descent before levelling out a little as it joins the celebrated Canalone Miramonti slope which ends right in the centre of the village. Together they form a single 1,700m-long piste, which has been approved for World Cup racing.

At Cervinia (cervinia.it), which shares a giant cross-border area around the Matterhorn with Zermatt, there are two new intermediate level pistes: "Gran Roc" and "Vallone 5", created within the Pancheron and Cretaz sectors.

Across the Atlantic, resorts tend to add hectares rather than kilometres to their ski terrain. For the past decade the terrain of choice has usually been "gladed", which means skiing through lightly wooded slopes. Snowmass in Colorado, one of Aspen's four ski areas (aspensnowmass.com), will open nearly 100 hectares of new terrain just before Christmas. The newly accessible Burnt Mountain slopes will offer rolling, low-angle meadows, glades and spectacular views – but will be graded at advanced black-diamond level primarily because of the narrow, quite steep traverse out of the area back to the Two Creeks lift.

And in the north-eastern corner of North America, Stoneham (ski-stoneham.com) ski area near Quebec City in Canada will add two new gladed runs. La Biche (the French word for "doe") is a new intermediate trail in the Family Zone, and for the more advanced L'Urubu (a bird of prey) is a steep new double-black-diamond 300m descent.

However, if you want to relive that 1960s-80s expansionist feel, head to China where new resorts are opening by the dozen each winter. New for 2012-13 is Changbaishan Resort (bit.ly/ChiSki), with 43 ski runs in the Changbai Mountains in the north-east of the country along the North Korean border, featuring luxurious Sheraton and Westin hotel complexes at the base.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks