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Japan Update & Focus on Nozawa, Shiga Kogen and Madarao

At the time of writing, it is early April and it is once again feeling colder and there is actually some fresh snow falling on some higher Japanese mountains. This return-to-winter spell is probably going to end up as no more than a quick ‘last blast’ and just a dusting of snow – or perhaps a little more in places if we are lucky… Even so, any fresh snow is very welcome after the somewhat dry March that we just experienced. After a decent-to-great season in terms of snowfall in many of the mountain regions of Japan, March arrived, and it was almost as if a big switch had been turned to the ‘OFF’ setting all of a sudden. Fresh…

Small Swedish Ski Area to Become International Destination Ski Resort

SkiStar, the corporation which runs half-a-dozen of the leading ski areas in Scandinavia, including the biggest, Sweden’s Åre, and also ventured in to the Alps, buying St Johann in Tirol a few winters ago, has said it plans to make the little known Swedish ski area of ‘Hundfjället’ an international destination ski resort in just over 18 months. They’re starting by investing 10 million Euros this summer in the area, with the majority of the investment going on what the company say will be Scandinavia's most modern chairlift, an 8-seater express lift built by Italian company Leitner and designed by Pininfarina who work on Ferrari car design. Hundfjället will also get new ski runs, expanded snow-making facilities and an overhaul…

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…

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…

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…

Big Snowfalls in the Southern Alps

There have been some big snowfalls reported in the southern Alps over the past 24 hours. The snowfall totals are some of the biggest since the huge January snowfalls and follow a mostly dry and often cold February. Accumulations of up to 50cm (20 inches) have been reported in the southern French Alps, as well as in Western Italy and parts of Switzerland. The biggest accumulation reported so far was 50cm at Puy St Vincent in the southern French Alps with Serre Chevalier (pictured top) reporting 40cm and many other ski areas in the region 20-40cm.  Superdevoluy (pictured above and below) has had 30cm of snow since yesterday. Over the border in to Italy there’s been 30cm (a foot) of…

Climbers Make First Winter Summit of Highest Peak in Polar Arctic

Two climbers have successfully completed an ascent of Gora Pobeda (Pik Pobeda), the highest mountain in Siberia, in the Polar Arctic Circle, the coldest inhabited place on earth. Tamara Lunger and Simone Moro successfully reached the mountain’s 3003m summit on Sunday, 11th February at 3.37pm then returned to their base within a total time of 11 hours, covering 27.3km and 2047m of elevation gain whilst avoiding the need to camp out in the extreme conditions. Had they fallen, a rescue would have been impossible. “It snowed all day long, but luckily there was good visibility. It was cold but thankfully cloud cover was in our favor, warding off the extreme temperatures. Low wind and -30/35 is what we can realistically…

Ski Japan: February update & focus on Hokkaido

Last time you might remember that I reported on a very good start to the snow season in Japan – in particular, Hokkaido. Niseko base had received around 6m of snowfall by the end of December and by early February that had increased to over 9m, with considerably more than that on the slopes. Snowfall consistency may not have been quite as impressive in January and the first part of February, but I’d say those numbers are still pretty good - and as this article goes online there are some exciting conditions to be enjoyed. It's very difficult to generalise the ski season in Japan as a whole simply because the popular/larger ski resorts are located over such a huge…