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Early Snow In The Alps


It seems unbelievable but here we are again, the ski season is almost upon us. I well remember last November, I was starting to get a little anxious about the lack of snow. My livelihood depends on the white stuff, no snow, clients don’t show, simples!

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I shouldn’t have worried. After the warmest and driest autumn in 148 years it seemed impossible that so much snow could fall in so short a time. Mid December 2017 saw the the Alps experience record breaking levels of snow fall. So much so that for a while my home town, Zermatt, in Switzerland, was cut off and isolated from the outside world. The only way in and out was by helicopter.

For a while I became the go-to-guy for news and updates as I was getting calls from press agencies who were on the phone to me requesting videos and quotes. Zermatt made the TV news in several countries. It was an unexpected 15 minutes of fame. I was inundated but happy to underplay and give a more balanced view of the severity of the overblown and exaggerated claims by some sections of the media who were claiming it was a disaster of biblical proportions and that 13,000 people were stranded with no electricity. It really wasn’t that bad. A first hand lesson at the alarmist nature of breaking news.

Meanwhile in Courchevel it was officially declared that there was too much snow. How can you possibly have too much of the stuff in the run up to the holiday season? Answer: if you are trying to organise World Cup races for the weekend and have 18,000 spectators arriving up a narrow snow-covered mountain road. Just the week previously, Courchevel was threatened with having to cancel the races because of a lack of snow. That’s quite some turnaround!

I must say, Zermatt had never looked so beautiful and I started to enjoy the camaraderie and spirit of the residents and visitors. It was difficult to tell how much snow there actually was if you glanced at the distant mountains but were left in no doubt as the apartments and chalets in and around the village had snow stacked up to 3mts on the roof tops, they looked like marshmallow houses and about ready to collapse under the weight of their topping.

This year is already shaping up. Obviously it’s way too early to predict if this years snow fall will match last years but it has already snowed in Zermatt. Just this week my eagerly awaited attempt to climb the Matterhorn had to be cancelled. A little disappointing to say the least. But if this weeks snow is a portent of things to come, then I’d trade a season of happy clients and satisfied skiers for a scramble up a small molehill any day of the week.