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It’s officially the fourth driest start to the rainy season in history in Southern California.

That’s creating stress in local mountain communities, with many business owners wondering: Where’s the snow?

“A few weeks ago we were joking about it,” said Larry Smith, who owns the Canyon Creek Inn in Wrightwood. “Now it really is serious.”

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The alpine region of southern New South Wales has received a big blast of snow — months ahead of the official start to the ski season.

Visitors and staff at ski resorts in the Snowy Mountains fell asleep last night in Autumn and woke up in what looked like the dead of winter.

Thredbo Resort said about 10 to 15 centimetres of snow fell on mountain tops overnight, while Perisher resort recorded about five centimetres.

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Want to try a skiing holiday with your children? Mareike Graepel has all you need to know…

If you have ever been on holiday with children, you know that it makes no difference if you travel for three days or three weeks. But if you go on a skiing trip, packing is a completely different story: Ski gear; gloves; looped scarves; helmets; goggles; sunglasses; long underpants and shirts; very strong sunscreen; food and – just in case it might be too foggy to ski (during the winter) or too warm and not enough snow (around Easter) – swimming gear and hiking boots.

If all goes well, though, the entire family should be on the mountain and in the fresh air from nine in the morning and in the evenings the kids gratefully sink into their thick feather pillows and sleep around the clock.

I tried skiing for the first time when I was three and a half, and have passed on her skiing obsession to my husband and daughters. Together they have tried the pistes and slopes in the Tyrolean towns of Galtür and Ischgl.

Four pairs of skies crunch on the snow, which is still frozen and slippery on the mountain. Two of those crunching sounds seem to swing in slow, big curves across the slopes, the other two – coming from two only half-sized skies – sound brief and small.

“Now, quickly down the slope! Speed up, girls!” I shout – and both children change their skies to the ‘chips’ position. That’s what the skiing instructors call it, when the children have to keep their skies parallel and not in the snow plough style, also known as ‘pizza slice’. Alva, the nine-year-old, tries to swerve properly already, Orla is only five and is still keeping her legs in the snow plough position. But now they speed down this short part of the slope at nearly 50 kilometres am hour – we measured their speed on a special slope near the ‘Idalp’, the largest hut on the mountain, the day before. It’s very apparent why skiing without helmets and proper clothing including gloves is unimaginable.

I am thinking back to times when I went skiing with the local sports club in my teenage years, in resorts like the Italian Plan de Corones in South Tyrol, wearing nothing but a strikingly green punk shirt and jeans when strapping on the skis. There are still people who ski without helmets but the percentage is low.

To ask the kids to go as fast as possible is not entirely altruistic – the slower the children get down this slope, the more they have to tramp up the sloping bit at the end – or hope that I will pull them up, looking like a biathlete-wannabe, who pulls a bunch of colourful and giggling mini people behind her.

“If you only knew how often I had to tramp up on the side of the slope,” I tell them for the umpteenth time and they roll up their eyes towards heaven behind their goggles. “We didn’t have conveyor belts to transport us back up on the beginners’ slope.“

I feel old. Several of these belts are in use by the skiing school, the Skisport Akademie in Ischgl, but are open to all beginners. There is also a children’s play area with a tyre carousel in the snow and a small platter lift. The children’s area is located very centrally in the resort – and most importantly already on the mountain, near the Idalp not down in the valley. This is perfect for families who want to enjoy the slopes themselves while the offspring practice with the instructor.

To learn how to ski is not very difficult here, guaranteed. Alva and Orla had their lessons in the next town, in Galtür, where there is also a beginners’ area and great instructors, male and female, who look after all novices, big and small.

Mareike with her husband and daughters Alva and Orla.

Today, there are no skiing lessons anymore, we are exploring the mountain as a family.

We picked easy slopes, marked with blue signs, and a few with a more advanced level marking, some red-sign-posted pistes. With more than 200 kilometres available just in Ischgl, the choice isn’t difficult – we could be on different slopes all day without repeating the same stretch at all. On top, there are freestyle fun packs, short beginners’ slopes, and ski routes for the advanced.

“Pleaaaase, can we take a black one too““ beg the children. That level of difficulty we decide to keep for the afternoon, at the moment it is still too icy and slippery – we need a bit of sunshine first to make the snow a bit softer.

A group is always as strong as its weakest link, a rule that applies particularly when skiing. Everybody waits for the slowest skier, at every turnoff or before difficult stretches. So, the three of us are standing there, waiting – for my husband. Alva and Orla find it easier to dart across the white snow crumbs, due to their weight and shorter skies, they are less scared of falling and are more agile in knees and hips.

The contrast between sky and earth could not be starker. While we let the sun warm us up a little on the side of the slope, we turn our faces towards the sun, and lean on our ski sticks. The deep blue of the sky, cut off by a sharp edge of pure white, only gets interrupted by the glaring yellow dot in it.

At the end of the piste, just before the six-people-chair-lift of the Höllkarbahn, as we continue our way down, I call across the fourfold crunching sounds: “Stop again, we forgot to put on sun lotion!” Normally we do this in the gondola on the way up in the morning, but we were preoccupied with the fact that the kids had signed up to take part in a ski race just before lunch.

With the start numbers of 3 and 199 – no chronological order, we noticed, relieved – both kids wait for their signal at the race slope, lotion-ed up and everything. Among other parents, we wait along the spectators’ line, get mobile phones and helmet cameras ready.

“And here she goes,” says the announcer and he pronounces her name as if she was called “Orrrrrla”. Slowly and carefully she half circles the slalom sign posts.

And before she is halfway down the piste, Alva takes off.

She is much faster than Orla and speeds down the slope – and only just before she gets to the finish line, tries to avoid a collision with Orla and turns too fast, She straddles a gate – which catapults her high up in the air. Both skies go flying, she ends up flat on her back. I am relieved I did not take off my skies and dash down towards her.

When I stop beside her, she is already up, thank goodness, and a skiing instructor as well as another father who is a doctor apparently, check her for injuries. The tears stream down her face despite having remained unhurt, the shock is big – and the confusion. “What happened?“

After we have shown her the pictures and videos, her tears dry up quickly and she says, rather proudly: “Jeepers, I was fast!”

Alva and Orla have fun in the kids’ area in Ischgl.

For consolation (it is not clear who needs more comfort now, the parents or the child), we head towards a restaurant hut – the choice is huge, with 14 different ones in just this resort. At the Idalp, 1,300 people find a space and there is also a kindergarten for guests, so Mummy and Daddy can go skiing without having to worry about their smallies. But today, we pick a smaller, more rustic hut, with a DJ and a dancefloor outside and a hearty and comfy atmosphere inside, the Paznauner Taja. While stalking across the room in their heavy boots, the kids sway to the music and sing along – to a rather X-rated drinking tune, which they don’t understand yet, thankfully.

A total of 162 kilograms of chips get fried in Ischgl’s hut kitchens, 160 Germknödel (yeast dumplings) and uncountable amounts of vanilla sauce get prepared, 183 portions of Kaiserschmarren (a cut up pancake mix with raisins, applesauce and icing sugar) get cooked as well as 5,212 kilometers of spaghetti with bolognese sauce and mountains of parmesan. Alva picks a Germnknödel with vanilla sauce and covered in ground poppy seeds.

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Most of us agree that there are few things in the world that can beat the pure joy that winter sports give to us.

There’s the pure mountain air, the spectacular views, the wonderful feeling of skiing or boarding over crisp, freshly groomed snow or through soft newly fallen powder. But it’s important to know How To Stay Safe When Skiing.

It’s all too easy to let the fun and excitement of getting on the slopes stop you from thinking fully about How To Stay Safe When Skiing or how how to stay safe generally out in the great outdoors.

After all, most of us ski in winter environments which only a few decades ago most people would never venture in to in winter.  These days we have great equipment, wonderful warm clothing and the lifts to whisk us up to the heights, but even so it is still being on a high mountain in winter, so it’s best to always take simple steps to stay safe, whether you plan to stay on the groomed piste or head off in to a freeride paradise. SnowTrex provides a list of tips and measures to help you stay safe making your way down the mountain.

Here are five key things to consider to help you have a stress and worry free, wonderful winter sports holiday.

  1. Know Your Limits

We all have certain levels of fitness and often when we go on a ski holiday we suddenly go from not doing much physical activity and being at a low altitude to being active all day in the mountain air at altitude, possibly with some alcohol thrown in for a lunchtime beer or vin chaud. Ideally you should try to be as ski (or board) fit as you can before your holiday by working up to it with a specially tailored exercise regime to build physical strength where you need it. But however fit you are its important to be sensible and be realistic about what you can achieve and how far you should push yourself. Things can change fast in the mountains and if you’re feeling exhausted and unable to fully concentrate on what you’re doing those dangers rapidly multiply.

  1. Know Where You Are

Having a thorough knowledge of where you’re skiing or boarding is always a big help.  Get to know the piste map before you arrive, download the app that tracks you on the mountain (offered free by many larger resorts) and take the orientation tour (also often offered free by the resort at the start of the week). Check slope and weather conditions before and during your day on the slopes so you know what to expect and what’s coming in terms of weather and slope conditions. Make sure you know what to do if things go wrong – the numbers you need to call in the resort and country you’re in. In the unlikely event they do go wrong, remember to stay calm and keep a clear head.

  1. Know the Rules of the Slopes

The International Ski Federation (FIS) publishes the ’10 Commandments of Skiing’ which is a little like the Highway Code for the ski slopes.  There are top tips like remembering to check the slope above you before you move off after a stop or join a slope and, when you stop on a slope, make sure you are clearly visible from above, not just beyond a rise where a skier coming down can’t see you.

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Roger Marolt

I don’t hate snowboarders. I hate snowboarding. This is not because I think they go too fast or make loud noises as they scrape snow off the ski runs or even because a few snowboarders cuss and smoke cigarettes in lift lines.

For me, it’s simpler than that; I think snowboarding set the evolution of winter sports back about three decades, and now I don’t think I will live to see simple adventurers snatch skiing back from wine sippers.

I came to this conclusion through experience at the time snowboarding was gaining fast popularity and the experts predicted it was going to revolutionize the snow-sport industry. A friend of mine, who was an instructor, gave me a free invite to participate in a three-day clinic that was guaranteed to “blow my mind.”

In the first hour of the clinic, I was admittedly an uncoordinated mess and could barely figure out which end of the board went in front. By noon, I discovered that the front and back of the board were completely irrelevant. By the third day, I was a bona-fide expert and I knew with certainty that I had gotten all I was ever going to get out of the sport.

I outlasted the sport. Yes, I may be old, but snowboarding is dead. How do I know? You don’t see kids riding them anymore. Snowboards may have been the first snow-carving tool, but modern skis came along and do it much better with far more versatility. Ask any 7-year-old which is better and you will instantly appreciate the stubbornness of the last of the snowboarders you see riding out into their looming midlife crises.

OK, you see a few tourist kids now and then on them, but you can blame that on the parents who told them that it was the cool thing to do and who garnered this information from watching the X Games on TV and still think that three-day infomercial during a mid-winter lull in the real sports world is a harbinger of hip trends. The main reason kids show up at the venue anymore is for the concerts after the events.

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Scandinavia is the new Japan for western skiers looking to up their travel ante and boasting rights and make some turns in Sweden, Norway and Finland. Lucky for you, Mint Tours have launched an 11 day Arctic Circle Road Trip powder tour that will have you salivating.

From March 17 to March 27, the team at Mint Tours will be taking a small group of skiers and boarders to the Nordic regions of Finland, Norway and Sweden. And you could be one of them.

Guided by Finnish locals who have been riding here for years, you’ll ride some legendary areas including challenging off-piste, incredible backcountry, and perfect free-riding terrain.

Add some unique husky and snowmobile safaris, try your luck at ice-fishing, head into the local backcountry to go snow surfing on Ilahu Boards and bask in the amazing natural beauty of the Arctic Circle and Northern Lights.

The ultimate highlight is a snow cat trip to Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge, Sweden’s highest located Mountain Lodge, for an unforgettable overnight experience. This fully hosted tour includes private transportation, loaded up with local knowledge on all the ‘secret’ spots to shred.

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The Walt Disney Company is proposing to expand its Parks & Resorts division with a new major $7-billion, world-class ski resort approximately 40 minutes north of Vancouver near Squamish.

Named ‘Garibaldi, A Disney Ski Resort’, the all-season resort project is a partnership with Vancouver Canucks owner Aquilini Investment Group and represents a drastic enhancement of the local company’s previously approved ‘Garibaldi at Squamish’ resort.

Although Disney is well known for its theme parks and hotel properties, this will be the company’s first foray into designing and operating a ski resort.

“An experience only Disney can deliver”

“This is an exciting new venture for the Walt Disney Company, and we will be bringing our very best to this global tourist destination to provide guests from around the world with an experience only Disney can deliver,” said Elias Oliver, chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, in a statement. “This ski resort immerses all visitors into the magical worlds of some of their favourite stories and allows them to meet their most beloved characters.”

“This is, indeed, a magical location for our first ski resort property, with vistas of the fjord below. We look forward with working closely with the local community on making this their own ‘Magic Kingdom’ as well.”

The ski resort will be built on crown land between Alice Lake Provincial Park and Garibaldi Provincial Park. Plans include 124 ski runs over 3,000 acres of terrain, six gondolas, 24 chairlifts, and four lodges on the mountains.

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Take a bow Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Thus far, the Lake Tahoe area ski resort has received the most snow in North America for the 2016-17 season – a whopping 650 inches.

Thanks to a series of strong winter storms that have moved through the Lake Tahoe region one after another this season, especially the past two months, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe announced today that it has officially extended its season and will remain open through Memorial Day, May 29.

A Mt. Rose employee shovels snow following a huge series of storms that hit the Lake Tahoe region. Mt. Rose has the most snow of any ski resort in North America – 650 inches.

According to, Mt. Rose has reported the most snow in North America to date this winter. And more snow is on the way. The National Weather Service forecast calls for another winter storm system to move through the region over the coming weekend.

“With this unbelievable season still in full swing, including topping the snow total chart in North America at 650 inches to date, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe will continue to offer supreme skiing and snowboarding conditions through Memorial Day this season,” said Mike Pierce, director of marketing at Mt. Rose. “For the second year in a row, this marks another six-month ski season and is a testament to our tagline, ‘8,260 – Where the Snow Is.’”

Located on Mt. Rose Highway with a base that’s at 8,260 feet – the highest of all the Lake Tahoe ski resorts – Mt. Rose is situated perfectly when big storms hit the region. The resort had 359 inches of snow fall in January.

Average base depths at Mt. Rose currently total 223 inches on the mountain. All lifts and trails are open as weather and conditions permit, with skiers and riders enjoying mid-winter conditions across the entire mountain.

To go along with its much longer 2016-17 season – a typical season ends sometime in April – Mt. Rose is offering a Spring Plus Premier Pass. The pass is valid seven days a week with no blackouts this season or next. The offer is a good value for skiers and riders who want the flexibility of being able to ski any day of the season.

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Whistler BlackcombA view from Whistler Blackcomb. REUTERS/Andy Clark

The mountain resort operator Vail Resorts is buying Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb in a deal worth about 1.4 billion Canadian dollars ($1.1 billion).

Vail will acquire 100% of Whistler Blackcomb’s stock, paying shareholders 17.50 Canadian dollars in cash and 0.0975 of Vail Resorts common stock, with a total value of about 36 Canadian dollars per share.

“This relationship will bring greater resources to support our current operations and our ambitious growth plans, including the Renaissance project, the most exciting and transformative investment in Whistler Blackcomb’s history,” Dave Brownlie,Whistler Blackcomb’s CEO, said in a statement.

He will continue to lead Whistler Blackcomb as chief operating officer.

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