ROW ERUPTS OVER UK MEDIA SNOW REPORTING
- James Cove, PlanetSKI Editor
The poor snow in the Alps has been reported across the media. Some blame it for people not booking holidays and believing conditions are worse than they are. What's the truth? NEW & UPDATED
Tuesday January 10, 2017 - Email this article to a friend
It is the third season in a row that there has been generally poor snow conditions in December and into early January.
By any measurement it was a disappointing Xmas and New Year, a key holiday period.
For those out skiing and snowboarding and hoping for good conditions there generally weren't any - except in a few lucky places.
Overall the piste skiing was OK at altitude with most resort runs open - off piste though was pretty much non-existent and the nursery slopes were far from ideal.
However, given the lack of natural snow, it was a monumental achievement for the resorts to manage to open what they did.
Many people we have spoken to out on holiday had a great time and simply made the most of it with long lunches in the sun and other activities.
To imply that all holidaymakers had their break ruined is completely wrong.
And now there are very good conditions in Austria and other parts of the Alps as we have reported here.
However the earlier poor snow has had a significant impact on resorts and those working in the snowsports industry.
Some are blaming sections of the media for the problems and accuse them of inaccurate reporting.
There have been a spate of reports in recent days about the snow and about the fact that 50 or so resorts in the French Alps, many of them popular with the British, might have to switch off their snow cannons - we have reported on it here.
A drought is to blame as there is simply not enough water.
Snow cannons use up huge amounts.
Consuming valuable water
The Times said on its front page: "Dozens of the most popular ski resorts in France face having to turn off their snow cannons because of an "unprecedented" drought that threatens to ruin tens of thousands of winter holidays."
The Telegraph followed suit: "Thousands of British holidaymakers are facing the possibility of ruined skiing holidays due to a drought of snow - and rain - in the French Alps."
The Mail OnLine did its usual trawl round the web cameras and picked out the worst ones it could find.
Some in the UK snowsports industry are angry.
"This is classic scaremongering unfortunately, and apart from being hugely damaging to the whole ski industry, it is also highly misleading and unnecessarily alarming to customers. Whilst it's true that skiers who travelled early in the season weren't knee-deep in fresh powder every day, it is equally true that none of our guests have been unable to ski, or had their holidays ruined, " said the Chief Operating Officer, of Hotelplan UK, Paul Carter.
Hotelplan owns the UK operators Ski Total, Esprit and Inghams.
We reproduce his press statement in full at the end of this article.
Here at PlanetSKI we believe he has some justification for his remarks.
I was interviewed by a national newspaper ahead of Xmas and told them that conditions on piste at altitude were very good - my remarks never made it to print.
Crossed out by the sub-editor.
If followed my time in Val d'Isère and Tignes in December - see here for the PlanetSKI report from the time.
Some private conversations I have had with those in the industry about the mainstream media coverage are not suitable for publication - they are littered with expletives!
However the media cannot ignore the fact that this is the third poor start to a season in a row and conditions have seen generally limited snow cover.
I have had private conversations with many in the European snowsports industry.
I have visited more than a dozen resorts this winter in France, Switzerland and Austria - meeting everyone from tourist office chiefs and resort directors to ski instructors scratching around for work and those that have been laid off.
Off-the-record they are very downbeat.
And that is putting it mildly.
Some of the main French resorts being unable to turn on their snow cannons at a time of reduced snow cover is an important development that should be reported.
It is wrong to blame the messenger for the message.
Here is our assessment of the latest snowfall in the Alps.
Most of the facts in the newspaper articles were correct - but perhaps not some of the headlines and the tone.
Some resorts in the Alps are also angry.
Méribel has contacted many of its UK business operators and asked them to use social media to counter the negative reporting.
Here at PlanetSKI we hope we have been accurate and fair in our coverage of the snow this winter - reporting when it falls, and when it doesn't.
It is said that a picture never lies.
But it depends which one is used.
The two images below from Les2Alpes this week make the point well.
One was taken at altitude and one low down, but they convey completely different messages.
Same resort, same time - but different message.
What we can all agree on is that the current fresh snow is very welcome, but it should not be exaggerated.
There is still a long way to go to get anything like average snow depths for the time of year.
Here at PlanetSKI we will keep you informed with our judgement and information from our reporters across the mountains who see it with their own eyes and make judgements from their experiences.
And of course we hear from the alpine weather expert, Fraser Wilkin, who provides us with regular and accurate information about snow conditions across Europe and North America.
We will be updating our main report daily and Fraser's weekly snow report for PlanetSKI is published each Thursday.
There has also been reaction from the UK snowsports industry and we reproduce some of it in full:
Phil Smith, Snoworks
"NO SNOW IN THE ALPS?
Say some of the papers. But did you realise we've been skiing in Tignes since October. Yep, that's right since the beginning of October and have experienced amazing snow conditions all the way through to the current snow falls.
There was a huge snowfall in November in the Savoie with the freezing level around 2,000 metres so any resorts above this have had great skiing. The Espace Killy opened fully on the advertised date, the last weekend of November and the whole Espace Killy has been open since. No snow?
Just look around, do some research and you'll always be able to find places with great snow. Blanket statements such as 'no snow in the Alpes' are completely false and those that write these kind of statements in the press should do a little more research so readers get accurate information.
There are always areas all over the Alps that have great snow.
In Tignes we've been skiing on-piste since the beginning of October and begun running our off-piste courses on the last week of November and had great skiing all the way through. Yes great skiing.
Of course needless to say we are looking forwards to the big snow falls forecasted for this coming week to add to the snow we already have. Snoworks guests are currently experiencing great off-piste skiing in St Anton with more snow forecasted this coming weekend. Skiers on next week's courses in St Anton are in for a real treat and we begin more All-Terrain and Off-Piste courses in Tignes next week.
No snow? You bet there is."
Paul Carter, Hotelplan. (full statement).
"This is classic scaremongering unfortunately, and apart from being hugely damaging to the whole ski industry, it is also highly misleading and unnecessarily alarming to customers. Whilst it's true that skiers who travelled early in the season weren't knee-deep in fresh powder every day, it is equally true that none of our guests have been unable to ski, or had their holidays "ruined".
On the contrary, skiers have been enjoying blue-sky days and sunshine on the mountain, and on higher slopes, the huge snowfalls of November provided a lasting base. Lower down the mountains, cold temperatures have enabled ski resorts across the Alps to do an absolutely wonderful job with their snow cannons constantly on the go, keeping the majority of their pistes open throughout the last month.
In addition, the timing of this 'bad news story' is bizarre. Austria has in fact had glorious powder snowfalls just last week, and we should be celebrating the fact that conditions are now outstanding here (see yesterday's photo of Lech attached).
Resorts in France, Switzerland and Italy meanwhile are forecasted to receive their next big snowfalls overnight tonight and over the coming days, following the same shift in weather patterns currently forecasted here in the UK, with colder weather and potential snow in today and yesterday's news.
Personally, I've just come back from a couple of days in Lech in Austria, and both the skiing and the 'winter wonderland' atmosphere are phenomenal, so it's deeply disappointing to see the doom-mongers busy trashing the snow conditions, just as they are getting better with each passing day!"
Amanda Church, Alpine Answers
"It's these types of headlines and imagery that cause scaremongering. Most operators have been honest about the assessment of the snow, prior to Christmas it has always been reported that the best of the snow was in areas above 2000m and high altitude resorts. Operators also have staff on the ground and sending their snow updates."
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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