With December arriving next week, the current state of the slopes in Europe looks extremely worrying.  Why is all the snow over in North America and not in Europe?  At the risk of sounding like Kevin the Teenager: ‘It’s so unfair!’

North America opens early, Europe opens late…
Over the pond – Aspen, Whistler and others have all opened early, but in the Alps opening dates have been deferred.  Val Thorens opened yesterday and claimed it was two days early, but the reality is that they had already put back their opening by a week.

Although there is snow up high, these are all images from the Alps taken this week:

Here’s the glass half-full…

  • It is still only November.  With the right weather there’s plenty of time for a base to get down before the season gets underway.
  • At least it’s cold enough for snow cannons.  With them there is some skiing to be had, without them there would literally be nothing.
  • If you can get high enough, there is some reasonable snow coverage.  This picture from Val d’Isere was taken on Tuesday (and has been shared 197 times), while Graham Bell was skiing in Cervinia last week.

And here’s the glass half-empty…

  • North America might have great snow, but it’s too far and too expensive for most Brits (only 5% of the UK market travelled there last winter).
  • With the economy as it is, the last thing the ski industry needs is a poor snow season.  Bookings are already bad, a poor snow start will slow them up even more.
  • Poor early season snowfall is not evidence of global warming (there’s plenty of that elsewhere) – but climate change is a reality that is going to increasingly affect snowsports fans.

What can we do?

Aside from praying to the snow gods (as Natives did so effectively last season), the industry desperately needs some innovation as well as luck.   Here’s some ideas from the Skipedia team:

  • Cloud seeding – this has been tried in the States.  It seems intuitively wrong, but so does GM food, and we all eat that.
  • Improved snow cannon technology – the Courchevel Enquirer recently wrote a great item on how and when snow can be created by snow cannons.  This technology has improved significantly over the last decade, but maybe we can go further and either produce more snow for less water, or more snow resistant to melting?  That sounds bizarre, but let’s think outside the box.
  • Virtual skiing and snowboarding – You may recall the Arnold Schwartzenegger movie ‘Total Recall’.  The premise of the film was that you could take a holiday without leaving your seat through a 100% virtual experience (the movie was based on a story by sci-fi writer Philip K Dick, who also inspired ‘Minority Report’ – a film that was way ahead of Apple as far as touch screens are concerned).

A virtual steak is better than no steak...

Could virtual skiing be the answer?

Think about how computer games have improved in the last decade.  The Wii was unimaginable to those brought up on Pacman.  Why shouldn’t you be able to go on a virtual ski trip?

The argument that ‘it wouldn’t be the same’ doesn’t stack up.  It’s simple to fool our senses (just watch Derren Brown).

So if you could experience the sensation of skiing or snowboarding without having to find snow to do it, there could be a future for our industry.

And if you wanted to you could still eat in a catered chalet.  Or, as in ‘The Matrix’ you could eat virtual steak too…

Tell us what you think
At Skipedia we’re just interested in new ways to market and develop the snowsports industry.  And we’re prepared to look to the future.

Tell us we’ve been watching too many sci-fi movies, by all means, but let us know how you think the industry should innovate too.

You can comment below or on our Facebook page.


[Photos courtesy of The Courchevel Enquirer and 2Alpes.net]