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.

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