With thousands of holiday makers due to arrive this weekend, the Alps are still struggling for snow. Sarah Loughlin looks at alternative activities to enjoy on your Christmas alpine break!
Whether you think that the lack of snow this year is down to global warming, disgruntled Snow God’s, or just plain bad luck, the fact is there are a fair amount of resorts not opening their lifts this weekend due to snow conditions. If you have already booked a ski holiday for this Christmas and your resort is looking more golf course, than ski piste, read on!
‘No snow?! At Christmas??!’ I hear you cry, ‘This madness’…. And madness it will be, thousands of people are due to descend into resorts this week, and as I look out on the very green and leafy mountains of the Tirol in Austria I can’t help wondering how this will play out. One solution used by many ski resorts are snow cannons which create artificial snow. However due to unseasonably warm temperatures and humidity they are not able to use them to create snow for this coming weekend. To create artificial snow it needs to be around -2/-3C. Christmas Day this year in parts of the Tirol region are due to be between 8-10C.
This is not what we have come to expect on the 19th of December, most years there is some sort of covering on the mountain, enough for resorts to open, even if it’s only the higher ski runs. With the scientists reporting that the weather is getting warmer, the glaciers are shrinking and the altitude at which rain turns to snow getting ever higher, it begs the question of whether low lying resorts such as those in the Tirol will still be skiable in the future. However traveling around the Tirol and speaking to various locals over the last few days I am told this is not the first time this has happened. One hotelier tells me he can remember a season about 20 years ago where they didn’t get the first snow until mid January. He doesn’t think that this situation is new, but it just happens a bit more often than it used to. He is not worried though, ‘the snow will come’, he tells me, ‘it always does’.
I imagine there will be a lot of disappointed people at the airport this weekend, but don’t be one of them!! After all, It’s Christmas!!! Although not ideal if you had envisaged spending a week swanning around the slopes, there is plenty to do in resort if there is limited skiing. These are my top activities to make the most of your non-ski holiday this week!
1. Try something different…. Most resorts offer activities that don’t need snow, such as paraponting (running/ skiing off a hill while attached to a nice French/ Austrian man and floating down through the valley with a parachute). If you think this could be the new sport for you, do some research and try to book something before you get there, I imagine they will get very busy! Companies like Evolution 2 in France offer a wide range of non-skiing activities.
2. Relax….. There are normally great spa’s and sauna’s in ski resorts. Make the most of the time you don’t normally have when running between ski school, après and dinner to relax in the spa, take a steam, or get a massage. Depending on your budget and the resort you are in there is normally a few to choose from. Again, research before you go and get booked in, especially if you want treatments. This could also double as a cheeky last minute Christmas present for someone you are traveling with!!
3. Explore…. I think like a lot of keen skiers I have only ever visited the mountains in the winter. Until this autumn, when I spent some time in the French Alps. I completely fell in love with it, it is so beautiful and peaceful walking in the mountains; there are so many animals and amazing views. You can even burn off some of that Christmas dinner while getting out in the fresh air! Make the most of a chance to go for a nice long hike and see the mountains before they get buried again for another winter.
4. Get sporty…… If hiking and paraponting aren’t your thing, visit the local sports centre. Depending on the resort there are all sorts of activities from climbing and swimming, to ice skating and table tennis.
5. Go shopping…. Whether you are into tacky souvenirs, hand carved wooden statues or cool snowboard apparel you will find it up in the mountains. Again, something you don’t normally have time for on an action packed ski holiday, so make the most of the time to look around the shops and pick up a few cool Christmas presents for yourself (and/ or friends and loved ones!).
6. Pig out….. It wouldn’t be Christmas without eating yourself silly. The mountains are a great place to do it, with more cheese and carbs than you can shake a stick at! So treat everyday like Christmas and take long boozey lunches while praying to the Snow God’s for a midweek dump!
7. Après…. Just because there is no snow doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the strange post-skiing afternoon tradition of watching live music, drinking beer and dancing on tables; other wise known as après ski. Plus you can hit it extra hard because you don’t have to be up early for ski school in the morning!!
8. Excursions…. Depending on the resort you are going to it is relatively easy to take the train to visit a nearby town or city. Check out my article on Salzburg for some inspiration!