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March 2018

Japan update and focus on Nagano (Hakuba)

Here we are in March. And for most of Japan, nature seems to have taken that as a clear sign to quickly switch to spring mode. It has been a generally mild and spring-like start to the month along with some nasty rain in lots of places. It might not feel like it right now, but historically March has a habit of delivering some good surprises and can offer some really feel-good conditions on the slopes. At the time of writing its early days yet, so hopefully, we might get some of that this season. Come the end of March and early April, lots of ski hills in Japan will be closing for the season, but a fair number of

In search of whitegold on the silk road – adventure skiing in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a country few skiers could spell and fewer still confidently locate on a world map. Once the centre of the world at the heart of the Silk Road and later part of the mighty Soviet bloc, the “Switzerland of Central Asia” (a topographic rather than economic likeness) is bordered by China to the east and a trifecta of fellow ‘Stans- Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan- to the north, south and west. The vast peaks of the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges dominate three-quarters of the country. Once popular with holidaying Russians, the fall of the Soviet Union decimated its tourism industry. But, thanks to its considerable natural attributes and an increasing number of enterprising local and international operators,

The Italian Drop

Bruce Pope explores the vast terrain of the Monterosa region and experiences heliskiing for the very first time Crouched in the snow, I try to keep my excitement in check as the ‘WHUP-WHUP-WHUP’ sound of the approaching helicopter echoes up the valley towards me. I’ve never been in a helicopter before, but in a couple of minutes, I’ll be whisked between the mountain peaks of the Monte Rosa massif for my introduction to heliskiing. In my head, I run through the instructions I’ve been given by our mountain guide, Roberto Valzer: “Keep low, protect your eyes from the downwash, wait until called forward, be careful climbing aboard, follow the pilot’s instructions. “And leave room for me!” he adds, with a twinkle

Education for off-piste skiing & snowboarding

Thinking about heading off-piste? If so, then training is essential – even if you hire a qualified mountain guide or off-piste instructor, understanding the terrain, conditions and how to avoid getting caught in avalanches means you can self-manage and stay safer. If the unthinkable happens and one of your group is buried in the snow, then understanding how to find them quickly, with the right equipment, can seriously extend the chances of survival. Here’s our pick of some of the best courses and organisations that provide training for skiers and snowboarders in off-piste mountain safety: 1. ISTA – International Snow Training Academy Set up by legendary freeride skier, Dominique Perret in 2016, ISTA is an organisation dedicated to training recreational

North American Ski Resorts In Huge 18-19 Lift Pass Sales Battle

Ski resorts across North America are dividing up in to groups participating in one or another different giant lift pass offers for the 2018-19 ski season. The multi-resort passes have gone on sale in the past few weeks for next winter and several groups are battling to persuade skiers and boarders that theirs’ is the pass to buy. Each of the passes covers at least a dozen ski areas and most many more.  Some have usage restrictions, others offer unlimited access all season to all areas. This annual sales battle I not new, Vail Resorts Epic Pass was conceived almost a decade ago now, but its success – with the company now selling more than 750,000 Epic passes  annually in

Will March 2018 Be The Snowiest Ever Month in Californian Ski History?

There have been more huge snow storms at Californian ski areas this week with some ski areas now questioning whether this month may end up their snowiest ever. Squaw Valley reports having had 4.7 metres (185 inches or more than 15 feet) of snow so far this month and says that’s more than they got in January last year when they set an all time snowfall record for any month of operation since the area opened. Nearly another 2.5m (100 inches) of snow will be needed to break the 717cm (282 inch) record set in January 2017 though, but with the are reporting 107cm (35 inches) in the past 24 hours alone, that may be possible.   Last season

Heavy Spring Snowfall in New England

A second wave of heavy snowfall in New England has transformed conditions for the better in Eastern North America since the start of March. The East Coast’s ski areas had been suffering under warm temperatures, leading some in more southerly states to close for the season earlier than they hoped, but a return of snowy conditions for the start of meteorological spring have transformed slopes for the better. In Vermont Jay Peak (pictures above and top) has reported almost two feet (58cm) of snow in the past 72 hours and most other ski areas in the state have reported 30-50cm in the same period. Killington, which tries to stay open in to June each year, had seen the number of

Europe’s Most Northerly Ski Area Has Opened for 2018 Ski Season

Europe’s most northerly ski resort, Riksgränsen in Sweden, has opened for its 2018 ski season. Located 250km (150 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, and more than 1500km (nearly 1000 miles) north of Swedish capital Stockholm, it comes as a surprise to most that Riksgransen was once Sweden's top ski destination and it remains on the "must ski before I die" list of most dedicated winter sportsmen and women. The reasons are not immediately apparent, the ski area would not make the world top 1,000 on size or vertical, the lifts are rather old and resort amenities limited.  It's so cold and dark here that the season does not get underway until late February (the video below was filmed in

Snow Depths Reach 6m On Two Continents, 5m on Third

Snow depths have been building across the northern hemisphere in the run up to meteorological spring. Typically northern hemisphere snow bases grow and grow from September to March before peaking at the start of spring when the annual thaw begins to slowly reduce the snow pack through spring and summer. In recent years the deepest depths have struggled to reach 4m or 5m at times – last season saw a very deep snowbase in North America but not to much in Asia and Europe for example. 2017-18 is seeing more uniformity across the three northern hemisphere continents.  Depths in Europe passed the 6m (20 feet) mark at several Swiss ski areas in January – very unusually deep bases. Japan in

Big Snowfalls for the Start of Spring in the USA

After a largely quiet February for snowfall in most of North America, March and the start of  meteorological spring, has seen some big snowfalls on both the West and East coasts of the US. The snow is welcome on both coasts – in Califiornia because they’re still battling from low snowfall totals and warm weather through much of the season to date, in the east because temperatures had been unseasonably warm and some more southerly areas had been forced to close for the season early.  Here precipitation was expected to fall as rain at most areas but has fallen as snow at many resorts in Vermont and New York State, where swain ski centre reported 20 inches/51cm of snow overnight.

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