The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

All the dumb things I’ve done at the snow

Posted by on Jun 8, 2017

Dumb and dumber

With the opening weekend of the ski season upon us (well, for the slow coaches catching up to Mt Buller and Perisher anyway) I figured it was time for a rewrite of the Alpine Responsibility Code.

I’m sure you’re well familiar with the ARC sign at your ski school or perhaps the individual ‘rules’ stuck to lift stanchions that you summarily ignore as you ride to the top of the mountain.

Well, this ain’t it.

After 20-odd years in this industry I have done a life time worth of stupid and I simply don’t won’t you to repeat my dumb errors. Don’t judge me, just thank me. Ok, maybe judge me too.

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Can BC’s Powder Highway take on Vail?

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017

Powder Highway

Capturing some late season pow this week with Big Red Cats in Rossland. Pic: Jess Bonde.

To me it seems logical.

A pass that encapsulates the best of British Columbia’s interior, all on the one ticket.

The Powder Highway: the sweep of terrain that loops around the Kootenay Rockies like a roughly-hewn lasso and includes eight ski resorts, 14 snowcat operations and another 11 heli-ski outfits in British Columbia.

But can they take on the Vail behemoth with an all-areas pass?

It’s a question that’s on my mind as I make why through the heartland of BC and I’ve already got an interesting answer or two …

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Six places you have to ride this spring

Posted by on Mar 9, 2017

Mammoth

Spring was smiled upon in Mammoth and seen as an opportunity to actually get out of the house …

The countdown to the season’s end in the northern hemisphere is on.

Some places have a month left, some even two. There’s even one that has four months left. That’s right, FOUR months!

So where to go? Some places have definitely fared better than others but there really is something for everyone to see out the spring.

Best season/snow

Mammoth Mountain

The numbers coming out of Mammoth Mountain just blow my mind. They’ve had 520 inches of snow at 9000 feet and the current base at the peak is almost 30 feet or around 9 metre of snow. Bearing in mind it is still early in March so it is unlikely to have even peaked yet. Another number I like there is 4 – July 4 that is. That is now the earliest closing date for one of California’s finest.It’s a big mountain (3500 acres) with big terrain and while there’s not the 101 alternative activities here like a number of other US resorts if you’re coming for the riding (there’s also great park and ‘pipe facilities) you won’t miss out.

Mammoth

Mammoth … signs are, ahem, good for a terrific spring.

Best all-round region

Lake Tahoe

Take your pick of any of the Tahoe resorts to be honest as they are all copping it in what will go down as a season of legend (the best in 22 years). If I was looking at a destination region this spring the area would certainly be it. If you’re an Epic Pass holder you could do a lot worse than the Heavenly-Northstar-Kirkwood triumvirate, with the former two extending their seasons until April 23 (Kirkwood remains at April 16). Heavenly ticks the family box (and has amazing views), Northstar does solid groomers and has a great park while Kirkwood has some ball-tearing terrain. Elsewhere Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows is the next big pick having had 600″ + of snow and a season that’ll run well into May. There’s a grab bag of other little resorts worth a visit such at Mt Rose on the Nevada side, Sierra at Tahoe and Sugar Bowl.

Heavenly

Heavenly: The views go ok.

Best big mountain

Jackson Hole

“The relentless, active winter will continue for the forseable future …” So said the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but a day or so ago of areas such as Jackson Hole which have now tipped 500″ and are looking at a 600″ season. Jackson is putting some numbers on Colorado and even Utah in 2016/2017 and you are hardly going to getting a better spring to sample its undeniable wares. Slated close seems to be April 9 but you’d have to think there’s still a chance to extend given the conditions. And what of Jackson? Super terrain (you need to cross off Corbett’s Colouir from your bucket list, don’t you), sensational snow and while sometimes criticised for lift queues and rider traffic, expect it to thin out in spring. Get there.

Best Canadian

Revelstoke

Whistler is always the obvious candidate in BC, and its solid season (300″+), great facilities and closing date (Blackcomb is May 22) keep it on the list. But for mine if you want to get away from the madding crowds, it might pay to get into the interior to get your stoke on. With a base approaching 10 metres it should end up being an above average season here – and this my friends is a well above average mountain. With the biggest vert in North America 1713m (5620ft) , some serious touring terrain and a slated closing date of April 16 it is worth your consideration. Within three hours drive of another classic and later opening spring destination in Lake Louise, (closing: May 7) this would make a great late-season big mountain combo too.

Revelstoke: Big mountain, big spring ahead.

Best culture

Furano

Japan can be a tricky one in spring. Places like Nozawa Onsen in Honshu have had a great season (around a four metre base currently) and should stand up until April. But things can soften very quickly on the main island at this time so it’s advised not to leave it too late. On balance I would probably look to Hokkaido and specifically Furano. There’s been some nice top-ups in March (around 50cm so far) and given its location east of Niseko, will tend to keep the snow longer. Closing date is usually around May 8 and they should see that out this season. Big vertical (they run downhills here) , interesting terrain and touring options, solid facilities and it’s still very Japanese (unlike Niseko). Prices should be very friendly for accomodation etc at this time of year too.

Best Euro

Val Thorens

While not quite a winter of discontent in Europe it has been a mixed bag at best. Early storms. Wet storms. Extended dry spells. It’s been one of those seasons where it has been best to go when it’s on and avoid extensive forward planning. That said if you find yourself on the continent over the next few weeks it will pay to be high. Amsterdam aside that makes one of your better bets Val Thorens. At the pointy end in the French Alps , it’s the last of the Three Valleys areas to close (May 1) and it enjoyed a very handy top up of about 70cm over the last week. Temperatures have been cold recently and the base is almost tipping three metres in the high alpine so it should remain one of your more reliable options.

Val Thorens

Val Thorens: Looks passable at night.

Travel tips

If you are checking this out from Australia and are thinking about a US trip during the April school holidays, Air New Zealand seems to be doing some pretty good deals via Auckland at the moment. As is always the case most flights skyrocket during the holiday period but if you can stomach the extra travel time you could be saving yourself $A2000+ for a family of four. Return to LA looks to be in the $A1200 zone per person up against the $1750+ I’ve seen elsewhere.

If you are hiring a car the need for a 4WD should have lessened too which will save you $$$. Stay tuned for a rant sometime about the bullshit games US car hire companies play with 4WDs …

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The five best mountain towns in Canada (it’s time to move)

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016

trudeautrump

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Fernie and president elect Donald Trump. Hmmm, what was that Meatloaf song again?

Hate your future president? Too hot where you live? Not enough mountains? There’s a one word solution for you: Canada.

The Snow Gauge has handpicked the five best ski towns in the land for you to relocate. I’ve even managed to check out the real estate and have marked them on the infalible ‘Trudeau Rating Scale’.

So just as soon as the Canadian Immigration website gets back online you can put your application in …

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When will it open; what’s the snow like?

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016

Japan snow

Truckloads of snow for Japan in 2016/17? The suggestions are there might be. Pic: Myokokogen.net

From the USA to Japan and even Europe I’ve tabled the key resorts with expected opening dates, what if any snow has fallen and taken a broad look at what forecasters are predicting for the season in each of the regions.

Hopefully it will help you with your choice of where to head this northern hemisphere winter!

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