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Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

And it has come to an end…

Although we all hoped to ski and ride into June, Mother Nature had other plans, as she often does. With virtually no snow on the lower third of Superstar, we have decided NOT to spin the lift on Wednesday June 1.

Killington: May 29
With a pathetic 81″ (one-third their yearly snowfall average), Killington showed us a commitment to offering skiing as long as there was snow on the ground. The fact that they opened at all on Sunday, where skiers had to walk-on and off the lift, climb down to the snow and hike the bottom pitch of Superstar, is truly amazing. That was the kind of spirit that Killington had made their reputation in the 1980s and 1990s with continuous years of June skiing when the term “Some walking required” was a given. No one else would have opened under these conditions and even K wouldn’t have even been even been close to open this weekend a few years ago. Kudos to the Killington crew for your commitment in offering us skiing so late this season, even if Mother Nature wasn’t very kind to the East this season. Latest closing since June 1, 2002 THIS season is truly a symbol of their dedication to skiing.

Mont St-Sauveur: May 23
Although the season wasn’t as pathetic as South of the border, it wasn’t a great year like the previous season. The cold April help prolong the season, in some cases, the damage was already done when the real Spring skiing arrived (see ski areas below). MSS has been generally been aiming for mid-May and Victoria Day weekend every year and reaching it. Kudos to everyone at MSS. An extra three weekends of Spring skiing over other Eastern ski areas plus the extra days in October, only Killington had offered a later and longer season.

Jay Peak VT – May 1
Mont Comi QC – May 1
Sugarbush VT – May 1
Sugarloaf ME – May 1
Sunday River ME – May 1

Now what?

Killington isn’t the only ski resort in North America to close recently. There aren’t many liftserved options left on the continent. Summer ski area Beartooth Basin MT hasn’t open again this season due lack of snow.

Killington VT – closed May 29
Mt. Bachelor OR – closed May 29
Aspen CO – closed May 30 (open for Memorial Day weekend)**
Snowbird UT – closed May 30
Squaw Valley CA – closed May 30
Blackcomb BC – closed on May 30, but reopening on June 11

Still open (or reopening):
Aspen C) – June 5 (weekend only)**
Arapahoe Basin CO – June 12 5 (minimum daily until June 5, then Friday-Sunday only)*
Mammoth Mountain CA – July 4 June 12 (minimum)**
Blackcomb BC – July 17 (reopen on June 11)
Timberline Lodge UT – September 5

Northern Hemisphere

That is it, 3 ski areas open this week, potential 4 in mid-June. Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood is offers close to year-round skiing in North America. They are a few places in Europe in the Alps (Tignes, Les Deux Alpes, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Passeo del Stelvio, Hintertux and Mölltaler Gletscher) and Norway (Stryn, Galdhøpiggen and Fonna) that offer the same. A few other offer June and early Summer skiing in the Alps and Scandinavia, but not close to year around.

Southern Hemisphere

Our Summer is their Winter, so that a number of ski resorts on the southern continents of South America (Chile, Argentina), Australia (New Zealand, Australia). There are also 3 ski areas in South Africa and Lesotho in Africa.

Other silly places to ski with lifts
Indoor skiing found in Europe, Asia and Australia and dryslope skiing, sand skiing, but I’ll stop here before it gets too crazy.

Skiing without lifts?
It’s a big world, there are a number of areas that still have snow. Even in the East, where the season has been so bad, but not for long. Some of it is serious and it can be silly.

I’m planning to keep the blog somewhat active the Summer minus of a few weeks. I have a few posts related my Summer skiing experiences that have never been posted which I hope to be able to post them over the next few months. Some of them may be republication from another site on the blog and will show on their original date, so subscribed on the Ski Mad World Facebook page or on Twitter to be fully in touch with snow.

* UPDATE, June 1: Arapahoe Basin announced closing day as June 12. Closed midweek next week.
** UPDATE, June 3: Mammoth announced they were extending their season to July 4. Aspen announced they be open this weekend.

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List of Killington Seasons since 1966-67

*** 2012/2013 : Appreciation Day for one October weekend, reopened on November 5. K record states season as “October 13-15, Nov 5 – May 26”
** 2005/2006 : Open for one weekend after huge October storm, reopen on November 19. K record states season as “October 29-30, Nov 19 – May 1”
* 2008/09 : Nov. 2-6, Nov. 19-May 2

Season Open – Close / Total Snowfall / Ski Days
2015/2016 October 19 – May 29 / 81” / 189
2014/2015 November 3 – May 24 / 197” / 192
2013/2014 October 23 – May 18 / 196” / 199
2012/2013*** October 13 – May 26 / 208” / 195
2011/2012 October 29 – April 22 / 152” / 176
2010/2011 November 2 – May 1 / 263” / 179
2009/2010 November 7 – April 25 / 230” / 153
2008/2009** November 2 – May 2 / 283” / 169
2007/2008 November 16 – April 20 / 282” / 157
2006/2007 November 23 – May 6 / 294” / 165
2005/2006* October 29 – May 1 / 191” / 166
2004/2005 November 9 – May 15 / 206” / 188
2003/2004 November 10 – May 12 / 215” / 184
2002/2003 October 25 – May 26 / 291” / 204
2001/2002 November 6 – June 1 / 192” / 202
2000/2001 October 29 – May 27 / 316” / 202
1999/2000 October 25 – May 29 / 209” / 205
1998/1999 October 22 – May 25 / 186” / 204
1997/1998 October 1 – May 25 / 242” / 205
1996/1997 October 4 – June 22 / 301” / 233
1995/1996 October 17 – June 10 / 307” / 224
1994/1995 October 3 – June 4 / 182” / 214
1993/1994 October 1 – June 9 / 279” / 243
1992/1993 October 1 – June 1 / 300” / 229
1991/1992 October 21 – June 14 / 198” / 226
1990/1991 October 27 – May 28 / 206” / 214
1989/1990 October 10 – May 28 / 249” / 208
1988/1989 October 13 – May 21 / 202” / 211
1987/1988 October 12 – June 1 / 238” / 227
1986/1987 October 10 – June 3 / 233” / 224
1985/1986 October 1- June 3 / 198” / 224
1984/1985 November 3 – June 2 / 220” / 212
1983/1984 October 20 – June 21 / 238” / 246
1982/1983 October 17 – June 16 / 197” / 240
1981/1982 October 20 – June 15 / 268” / 225
1980/1981 October 14 – May 27 / 257” / 226
1979/1980 October 10 – May 23 / 138” / 221
1978/1979 October 16 – May 22 / 292” / 219
1977/1978 October 24 – May 23 / 341” / 195
1976/1977 October 27 – May 15 / 346” / 201
1975/1976 October 30 – May 5 / 232” / 173
1974/1975 October 19 – May 12 / 307” / 190
1973/1974 November 5 – April 30 / 193” / 177
1972/1973 October 20 – April 15 / 267” / 184
1971/1972 November 9 – May 18 / 323” / 192
1970/1971 November 18 – May 21 / 334” / 184
1969/1970 October 24 – May 4 / NA” / 178
1968/1969 November 9 – May 10 / NA” / 183
1967/1968 November 5 – April 7 / NA” / 154
1966/1967 November 4 – May 2 / NA” / 180

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Ski Mad World’s weekly Eastern Closing 2016 posts:
Let’s move Past EASTer & Go Easterner – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Part 1
Freeze Frame – Eastern Closing Thread 2015-16 – semaine 2
Monday, Monday…Eastern Closing 2016 Update – Week 3
The best of Spring Skiing – Eastern Closing 2016 – Week 4
May continue skiing – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 5
Dual May Days for Mothers’ Day – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 6
May it last? Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 7
Deep into May – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 8
At the end of May – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 9

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By August 2011, only seven ski areas in Europe were still offering liftserved skiing (FirstTracksOnline News).

Tignes, France
Les Deux Alpes, France
Zermatt, Switzerland
Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
Hintertux, Austria (August and September)
– Mölltaler Gletscher, Austria

euro-summer-ski

I wasn’t in Europe to ski, but I was going to ski in Europe. I had hoped going on our last Summer in Europe back in 1998, but a record heat wave and a freak accident prevented me from doing so.

This time, 13 years later, I was going to cross off the months August and September in my ski streak. Then it occurred to me, wouldn’t be interesting to make a comparison between each ski areas still activate within the same time period. It didn’t start that way, but as time the weeks passed by, it became a goal. The fact that I probably not return to do a summer tour of European glaciers made it even more appealing. Visiting them side-by-side in the same time period at the closing of the Summer season and give me a better ideas of what Europe got to offer to skiers in the late Summer months.

Only Zermatt and Hintertux are open year-round while the others shutdown once the Summer comes to an end: some of them for a few weeks, while Passo dello Stelvio is only open in Summer.

This is a list of different aspect of each summer ski areas. I don’t like to talk about “Best of” lists, but the following is more according to my opinions, thus the reason why I call it “Favorites”. For many of them, the actual summer terrain was greater than what was left at the end of the season. The following only reflected of what was left.

Favorite park : Les Deux Alpes
Favorite terrain : Hintertux
Favorite winter quality snow : Zermatt
Favorite off-the-beaten track : Passo dello Stelvio
Favorite place : Saas-Fee
Favorite place in France : Tignes
Most expensive : Zermatt
Biggest vertical : Hintertux
Highest altitude (summit and base of skiing) : Zermatt
Lowest altitude (summit and base of skiing) : Hinterux
Favorite on mountain food : Hintertux
Favorite beer selection : Hintertux
Favorite view : Zermatt, Tignes and Saas-Fee
Favorite sick road : Passo dello Stelvio
Less favorite steeps (or lack of) : Les Deux Alpes
Favorite steeps : Hintertux
Favorite Day conditions during my visit : Passo dello Stelvio
Favorite place to have fun : Saas-Fee (2nd in parks, good terrain and off-the-beaten track).

The only ski area I didn’t to visit that was still open was Mölltaler Gletscher in Austria. As I mentioned to my wife, I was probably not going to repeat a European Summer Ski Safari as the cost was much more expensive than a trip to South America, but it was fun to do. I would have loved to make to Mölltaler, but I was running out of energy and cash after almost 6 weeks in Europe; 3 of them in the Alps. At 85.7%, it’s a good sample of the mission into what late summer skiing in Europe has to offer.

Click on the specific links or image to access the seven original Ski Mad World posts.

Cham, Genève et Tignes turns August, FR – 11-13 août 2011

13 août 2011: Glacier de la Grande Motte, Tignes

See La Meije and Ski Les Deux Alpes: 20-21 août 2011

Zermatt CH : August 24, 2011 – Classic!!!

Saas-Fee CH : August 25, 2011 – Between Zermatt and Zürich

Passo dello Stelvio / Stilfserjoch IT : August 28, 2011 – Sci estivo

Hintertux, AUT : August 29, 2011 – Austria’s turns

Hintertux, AUT : September 1, 2011 – last turns and days in Europe

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Day Two skiing on the combo Zermatt-Saas Fee lift ticket which set me back a nice 120 CHF. Zermatt’s neighbouring valley is less touristy, but as scenic. Saas-Fee doesn’t have the attraction power of Zermatt and it isn’t access by train, but you still can’t drive on the town’s streets. No majestic Matterhorn hovering above, but if it lacks in a majestic iconic peak, it makes up in hanging glaciers easily visible from town.


Arriving in Saas-Fee in the late afternoon

I arrived the previous day as it was getting dark; Saas-Fee is definitely quiet place compared to my previous destination. I stayed at the Hotel Garni-Imseng, a laidback hotel with normal zimmers, but you could find in the basement next to the Bakers Museum, the Touristenlager place, a dorm in the basement which had 7 side-by-side 3 stories bunkbeds for a potential capacity of 21 people in one small room, fortunately we were only 5. The other guests were a couple of parkskiers from Geneva and a freerider that skied 2 hours in the early morning then took the bus and train to get to work in Lausanne and back later in the night. I’m not even sure if the owner knew this guy was staying there. The setup was sketchier than in Zermatt, but more genuine, authentic and friendlier from the owner, staff and guess. I guess that too many tourists in Zermatt can have a negative effect on the locals.

I had a full breakfast before heading for the gondola; I wasn’t in the hurry to hit the ice. It was slightly overcast as I rode the lift with a hiker. Lift assisted hiking was really big in my two Swiss destinations, many of the Saas-Fee gondolas were running just for hikers and had nothing to do with skier access to snow. The last part of the ascent was done with the Metro Alpin, an underground funicular, but much older than the one at Tignes.


Saas Fee in the early morning light from the gondola


Saas Fee’s Winter ski runs below glaciers

You couldn’t really see where the skiing was once you leave the terminal building; it didn’t help that it was cloudy. The skiing started as a push across very thin cover flats towards the side of the glacier. The first thing would notice was the cattrack set next to huge crevasses. I was also impressed with the overall steepness of the runs; not much of a runout in Saas-Fee. The runs were short and steep, not really steeper than Zermatt, but didn’t have the runout. The skiing domaine was also more restraint.


The zigzag Metro run that you access once off the Allalin terminal at 3500 meters. The run is on the edge of the glacier and among the crevasses. T-Bars in the background.


The Allalin 2 + 3 T-bars, bottom of Metro pitch with courses and Allalinhorn (4027m).


There were also courses on the FIS run. View of the crevasses and Allalin station (3500m).


Courses on FIS and Allalinhorn


Snowpark

No wonder the Geneva park kids like Saas Fee; the jumps and halfpipe were happening. The only park I witnessed during this late summer treks across the Alps glacier that came close was the Les Deux Alpes park.

The altitude wasn’t as high as the previous day skiing at Zermatt, so the snow softened up earlier. The glacier setup was two parallel T-Bars and a lower one where the bottom snow conditions were somewhat sketchy. There were a number of people training, but not close to the amount or general caliber as in Zermatt. I made runs until we started being immersed in clouds just prior to the last lift at 1pm.


Allalin 2 + 3 lifts and Metro run


FIS run with part of snowpark in the shadow of Allalinhorn


Top part of Summer skiing terrain as seen from top of Allalin 1 lift


Allalin 1 lift, lower part of Summer skiing terrain with Täschhorn (4490m) and Dom (4545m), 3rd highest mountain in the Alps.


Lower T-Bar : Allalin 1 – Lower ski accessed point at approximately 3200 meters.


Upper T-bars and Allalin restaurant & terminal (3500m)


Feegletscher and Täschhorn from the gondola


Storm brewing as the skiing ended

Once back in the valley, early evening showers moved in and continued into the next day. I managed to ride the alpine luge next to the gondola. The next morning the Swiss kids weren’t going out as the hill was closed and I decided to make an early move out towards Zürich. Zürich is a beautiful city. but like Switzerland, it is expensive. I’m moving further East for my next destination.


Saas-Fee


Walliser Rösti and beer after a good day skiing


Road from Saas-Fee to Zürich


and tracks from Saas-Fee to Zürich


Zürich

MadPat’s Galleries :
Tag 27 / 24 August: Zermatt und auf nach Saas Fee
Tag 28 / 25 August: Saas Fee
Tag 29 / 26 August: Saas Fee und Zurich

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Day’s Log

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Detail log of skiable terrain

The Day and terrain stats: 18 runs and 4490m vertical in just under 4 hours.
Verticals :
Allalin 2 + 3 : 249m (3330-3579)
Allalin 1 : 162m (3200-3362)
Top to bottom summer ski terrain: 379m (3200-3579)
Allalin restaurant terminal : 3500m
Metro Alpin Funicular Felskinn-Allalin : 456m (3044-3500)
Alpin Express 2 Gondola Moreina-Felskinn : 372m (2672-3044)
Alpin Express 1 Gondola Saas-Fee-Moreina : 765m (1907-2672)
Saas-Fee to Allalin : 1593m (1907-3500)

Ski Pass

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Zermatt!!! A place steep in mountaineering history and one of the most popular tourist attraction. It is also the terminal of ski mountaineering Zermatt-Chamonix Haute-Route.

The family was leaving Lyon today; wife and kids were taking the TGV train to Paris and flying back to Canada the next day. Earlier that morning, I hoped on my own train in the neighbouring town from my in-laws towards Geneva and Zermatt. It had been 4 weeks since we landed in Paris, the rest of the family were heading back for work and school while I was extended my stay in Europe to get a few more turns.


Train station in France


French countryside


Swiss Alps


Final train ride up to Zermatt

A few hours later I got off the train and walked into a postcard. No artificial Disneyfied pedestrian village with typical faux-Swiss Chalets; this was the real deal with spectacular scenery with the Matterhorn in the background and you’ll understand why there are so many tourists roaming the streets.


The Matterhorn


Zermatt

All good things for tourists, but for myself, Zermatt is first and foremost one of the most extensive summer skiing destination in the World. Skiing starts at 7am, but the gondola ride open at 6:30. I bought a 2-day combo ticket that is also good at Saas Fee in the next valley. The ticket set me back 129 CHF. A single day pass for Zermatt cost for one-day was 80 CHF making it probably one of the most expensive ski passes all season combined on the Planet. Walked in sandals from the hostel to the gondola terminal and hoped on at 7:30. The ride from 1600m edge of town to the 3800m summit station was made via the bottom gondola then followed by two trams.


Tram station


Tram ride above glacier

For some reason, we ended up waiting in a closed trams for what seem a longtime. People were hot in more ways than one. The weather forecast was uncertain as T-Storm were forecast later in the day. The Matterhorn was partially clouded off for part of the day. The temperature at the top terminal at 3883m was 0 celsius, the snow was refrozen and hard. There was a long cat-track starting from the summit terminal building and descending where the majority of the skiing was happening. There was even a tunnel to avoid skiers training Super G or Downhill. Once on the other side of the short tunnel, a multiple of teams had divided the hill in lanes for training. Conditions were hard and fast which was perfect snow conditions from running gates for teams from Ontario kids to the Austrian ski team. These conditions prevailed until 11:30.

In this last week of August, the skiing was serviced by 5 T-bars covering a vertical drop of almost 500 meters. Skiing is possible for an extra 500 meters on the Oberer Theodulgletscher earlier in the season.

The morning skiing wasn’t for the uninitiated: it was like a first year driver on the Autobahn. The terrain accessed by the two 280 meters Zermatt parallel T-Bars started steep only to conclude in a long run off at the end down to 3400 meters. A number of courses were set to the skier’s right and two on the left side of the trail. The gateless skiing was in the middle. At the bottom left side in the run out, there was a few park features. You could access the park via a shorter T-bar that ran 75 meters, but the snowpark was clearly not the focus of the Zermatt skiers. Some skiers were arriving from Cervinia on the Italia of the border via a lift arriving to the Plateau Rosa which you could ski to and from.


T-Bars and the Matterhorn


Coaches and racers with the Tram terminal at 3883m in the background


Lanes with Super G course on the left


Austrian racer

As skiers running the downhill course from higher up, I noticed a T-bar higher not visible from the top of main T-bars. This lift ran along the ridge that also served as the Swiss-Italian border and climbed an extra 160 meters. The top of the T-Bar was approximately at same altitude as the Summit building (3899m). On the plateau in between, a T-Bar assured the liaison. Although the Downhill run was off-limits, there was a gentler run between it and the cat-track from the morning. The excursion was better with snow that was soft and edgeable. It made for a pretty long run with almost 500m vertical: wow! It was impressive.


Ridge T-Bar on the Italian-Swiss border


Saddle between top T-Bar (3899m) and Tram Terminal (3883m). Start of the Super G/Downhill training course on the left


In the other direction : Breithorn (4164m) trek. You can notice path and climbers

Clouds started moving in at noon when most of the racers were gone. I asked if it was okay to run that was previously used to train downhill. The answer was “yes” and it ended up being the run of the day. I keep bumping into this French skier. He initially approached me and asked if I was American. He mentioned that he recognized me by my skiing. We took the T-Bar together a few times. He was instructor from Chamonix in Zermatt on a daytrip. When we talked about age, he says that he mentioned that he was “48” to the ladies. Turns out that he was actually 78 and had been an instructor for the last 60 years. He worked for a number of years in Tahoe and spent one year at Mammoth during their third year of operation in 1960-61. This man was full of stories and was the definition of the classic French skier from the 1960s in the way I would imagine in term of personality. He lived just off Argentière next to the lift.


Traverse towards Plateau Rosa with view of main summer skiing area


Plateau Rosa and lift connection with Breuil-Cervinia (Italy)


Back towards T-Bars base

Ended up milking out the last run of the T-Bar, skied the previous closed lanes due to the various training courses. The flatter bottom of the slopes was pretty mush, but it still fun to ski if you don’t mind that thing of snow.

We downloaded off the mountain together. He shared some of his bottle of cider and sandwich. He didn’t want to have anything to do with my Mars chocolate bar. The ride down was longer as we used the top tram then transferred to the two stage gondola. Not the fastest way down, but still incredibly spectacular.

The French skiers removed his ski boots at the top while I put my sandals. I was waiting for him to put his shoes only to find out that he didn’t have any. He told me he never wore shoes unless he asked for a loan at a bank. :O Telling you, classic. As we walked down the streets of Zermatt, me in my sandals, him barefoot, he offered me a ride down the valley with his car parked lower in the Valley (Zermatt is car-free). I had to decline as I needed to get my stuff back from the Hostal and transfer via Train and bus to Saas Fee. I was really a pleasure to share part of my day with him.

Zermatt is really spectacular. The scenery and the size of the summer liftserved skiing are pretty impressive. Definitely an all-round classic!!!


Close view of the Glacier during the Tram ride


Lower end of the Oberer Theodulgletscher with visible early summer lifts


Gondola download


Zermatt


Matterhorn in the clouds


Beautiful Zermatt

MadPat’s Galleries:
Jour 26 / 23 août: Ambérieu-en-Bugey à Zermatt
Tag 27 / 24 August: Zermatt und auf nach Saas Fee

Monday Mad Addict’s Attic : Zermatt (Trail Map)

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Day Log

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Detail log of skiable terrain

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