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" (, 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 "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 ( 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 (, 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 (, 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 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 (, 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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam