Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Another one done

Well, that's about it for this winter. All the ski areas in Andorra have now closed for the season, in spite of the fact that there is still plenty of snow about. If you are lucky you might well be skiing in the Alps or North America where lots of areas are still open. It always seems strange to me that resorts shut up shop well before the snow goes - the deciding factor is the number of people I think; it seems that as soon as we hit April everbody forgets about skiing and heads to the beach. Even if it's raining there. So the resorts close simply because there aren't enough visitors to make it viable to open.

I'ts been a strange winter, the snow came later than it has in years and there were lots of dark mutterings about climate change and the end of skiing as we know it. Of course the snow did come, as it always does, and for the last four weeks of the season it snowed almost every day. The resort had the chance to demonstrate how good they are at making snow when they have to, and despite the many rumours bouncing around there was never any iminent danger of an early closure. In truth there have always been occasional late snow years, just as other years have seen monster snowfalls in early November - Mother Nature is ever fickle. To my mind if you want the best chance of the best snow then February and March are much more reliable than Christmas or January. If you want a week when the sun shines, the slopes are empty and the snow is still generally good look at early April.

So, is climate change really affecting the skiing? That's a pretty difficult one to answer, as each year is different from the last. There have been good and bad winters recently all over the world, and snow has fallen in some pretty unusual places. January here was cold in spite of the sunshine, April has been relatively warm in spite of the snow - as expected. Certainly people will speak of a golden age when snow fell by the bucketful year after year, and as a child I remember driving to Cairngorm (well my dad was doing the driving) with snow piled a couple of metres deep on each side of the road. However I also remember getting horribly sunburnt one roasting hot weekend skiing in Scotland as well. I think people always like to reminisce about better days when they were younger, but in truth the same amount of snow seems to be falling on the globe as always, although perhaps the patterns of where and when are a little more erratic. Left unchecked, of course a warmer planet cannot be good for the ski industry, nor for the world in general. For the moment, however, the skiing is still good, the snow is lasting well into April and beyond - so lets make the most of it while we can. And of course switch the lights off, walk instead of driving, put on an extra jumper and turn the heating down.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Welcome to the Winter Wonderings Blog

Well, winter has almost finished so it might not seem like the best time to start a brand new blog about winter sports and winter life. However the Alps and the Pyrenees have both had what seems like a winter's worth of snow in the space of a couple of weeks, and that's after a season of blue skies and sunshine. And when winter does finally come to a close here, it's only a couple of months until the southern hemisphere winter kicks off. You've got a wide choice of resorts and ski fields across Australasia and South America, the fun is never over.

So, since it's my first post I'd better introduce myself; I am a ski instructor based in Arinsal, Andorra for the (Northern hemisphere) winter and planning to head south to New Zealand for the other winter. I am reaching the end of my second season here (fourth as an instructor, sixth altogether). The nickname Swedish Jan was coined last year when a couple of instructors decided to see how many people they could convice I was from Sweden. For the record, I was born in Manchester, England. Anyone wanting to know more can check out my website at I'll throw in a picture here so you can see what I look like in the oh so fetching ski school uniform...

Well enough about me, future posts will probably talk about ski instructing and the various qualifications, courses and organisations involved, travel around the world, my attempts to learn Spanish, global warming and its consequences for the ski industry, random rumours, the history of skiing and anything else I can think of. The way I see it a Blog site is just an outlet for all my musings - be prepared. For the rest of this post, I just want to say a little about where I am - the town of Arinsal.

Arinsal is one of the ski resorts in the Principality of Andorra - a small country perched in the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain - population about 70 000, size - well it fits onto a single 1:25 000 scale map so its about 20 miles from one side to the other. The country is not part of the EU, so is an attractive duty free shopping destination for both the French and the Spanish. Tourism and banking are the main industries. The skiing is not huge in comparison to the Alps but is friendly and accessible. The Arinsal ski school makes a point of employing English speaking instructors (as well as speakers of French, Spanish, Catalan, Czech, Russian, Danish, Portugese, Hebrew, Dutch, Afrikaans etc.) and ensuring that people are taught in their own language. This is frequently not the case in local ski schools accross the Pyrenees and the Alps. Arinsal itself is the friendliest town I have ever lived in, and this is probably the reason so many people keep coming back year after year, either to holiday or to work. The town is small enough to feel homely but big enough to throw a damn good party. For me it ticks all the boxes as a great destination, and I know I'll be back next year. For more info about the town see our new website, and leave us a message in the forum ;-)

Hasta Luego