Massive avalanche traps hundreds of British holidaymakers in Zermatt

Hundreds of British holidaymakers are tonight trapped in the ski resort of Zermatt in Switzerland following a massive avalanche.

A downpour of snow and ice has blocked all road and rail links into the Swiss village which has always been hugely popular with visitors from the UK.

‘The whole town is completely impassable,’ said a spokeswoman for the Zermatt tourism office.

Snow has covered the train track and roads leading to the popular ski resort, while poor weather means that helicopters are also unable to take off, a spokeswoman added. Belinda Hadden, 53, said she and a group of friends had been forced to abandon their flight home to London because of dumps of more than 3ft of snow.

Ms Hadden said: ‘I had no idea until I went to the train station and was told there was no way I was getting out. ‘There are worse places to be trapped, but it is a bit worrying that we are properly stuck. There hasn’t been snow like this since 1999, there’s been a metre alone today.’

Love SkiThe worst dump of snow took place at around 1.30pm on Thursday in the village, which is at an altitude of 1,620m (5,310ft). It became famous in 1865 when British mountaineer Edward Whymper used it as a base to climb the Matterhorn.

Zermatt is now one of the best known resorts in Switzerland, with most visitors reaching it by cog railway train from nearby Tasch. So as to prevent air pollution, the entire village is a combustion engine car-free zone, with only electric vehicles allowed to be used by local businesses.

There is also a heliport, but that too was closed because of the avalanche.

She said rail staff had been unable to dig out tracks on Thursday but that the situation would be assessed again on Friday.

About Zermatt- Zermatt lies at the southern end of the Matter Valley (German: Mattertal), which is one of the lateral branches of the great Valley of the Rhone. The village is almost completely surrounded by the high mountains of the Pennine Alps among which Monte Rosa (or Dufourspitze), Switzerland’s highest peak at 4,634 metres (15,203 ft) above sea level.
It is followed by the Dom (4,545 m /14,911 ft), Lyskamm (4,527 m /14,852 ft), Weisshorn (4,505 m /14,780 ft) and the Matterhorn (4,478 m /14,692 ft).
Most of the Alpine four-thousanders are located around Zermatt or in the neighbouring valleys.
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Despite slow season, bidders line up for Czech ski resorts

The ski season got off to a bit of a slushy start at the end of 2011. Unseasonably warm weather and deepening fears of another recession kept tourists off the slopes, but it isn’t stopping two major investment firms from slaloming to bid on three resorts.

Financial group PPF, which is owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, has made a bid to buy a one-third stake in three ski areas in the Krkonoše Mountains near the Czech-Polish border. PPF offered minority shareholder Czech Ski Association (SLČR) 194 million Kč ($9.8 million/7.6 million euros) for shares of Špindlerův mlýn, Pec pod Sněžkou and Harrachov ski areas, or 155 million Kč for shares just in the first two areas. The company’s bid is reportedly as much as 17 percent more than an independent appraisal, but PPF had access to the resort’s finances through a related company, Sportlease, which also has a minority stake in the areas.

“The purpose of acquiring a stake in the ski resorts is to help the SLČR stabilize its existence in a situation when its minority stake is its only viable asset and its minority decision doesn’t provide for comfortable decision-making over cash flow,” said Milan Tománek, a PPF spokesman.

The company has also expressed interest in purchasing majority stakes in the areas now owned by the Czech Sports Association, but progress on the deal will have to wait until a new director is elected this year.

Shortly after PPF submitted its offer and the SLČR executive committee said it would recommend to its members the sale be approved, a rival bid offering slightly more for shares in the same resorts was submitted.

Slovak company Tatry Mountain Resorts, owned by J&T Banka, made an offer just before the end of the year that is nearly identical to the PPF offer, just 1 million Kč more.

Other investment groups may soon be going public with offers of their own on the same properties, including Natland, Penta and rubber magnate Tomáš Němec, as well as owners of land where the slopes and lifts are located, daily Hospodářské noviny (HN) reported Dec. 21.

Though exact figures on ski tourism won’t be published before the end of the season, preliminary reports from hotels show a rough start to the season. Resort hotels, which are normally booked solid during the Christmas and New Year holidays, were half-vacant in some cases during the festivities this year, and Krkonoše hotels were around one-third vacant, HN reported.

Though Czech mountains offer some of the least expensive skiing in Europe, a lot of renovation is still needed to bring them on par with world-class ski destinations like those in the Alps. Alice Dvořáková of CzechTourism said that though not nearly as much has been spent on renovations last year on the Czech slopes – around 400 million Kč compared with investments in the billions in years past – there is no shortage of interest in improving the resorts.

“It’s not so common to invest such large amounts of money every year, and that’s why the investments are not as high as in previous years,” she said. “This year we saw improvements, especially in children’s areas and areas for handicapped tourists.”

Weather and economics aside, running a ski resort is no easy business, which makes it no wonder owners would be looking to sell to a long-term investor in a slowed economy, said Ondřej Špaček, a tourism adviser for KPMG.

“The equipment and infrastructure needed for ski resorts is expensive, and you have to make money from other services like accommodation and ski schools,” Špaček said. “And the people with these firms that want to provide the ski resort have to have the skilled services and an additional business plan in order to make them profitable.”

He added that investors with a background in these types of services can often offer just the type of alternate business plans resorts need to keep profits strong.

“It’s a long-term investment together with the development of the ski resorts. You want to connect other business activities like the development of hotels, cabins and apartments.”

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Ski lifts still idle at Bogus Basin

While Bogus Basin trims staff, ski-related companies hang tight and cross fingers BY KATY MOELLER AND DARA BARNEY Copyright: © 2012 Idaho Statesman
Paper snowflakes dangle from the ceiling of Highlands Hollow Brewhouse in Boise, a popular pit stop for hungry skiers and snowboarders on their way to and from Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. The holiday decorations are the only snow in sight this year.Ski-suit-clad customers who would normally pack the Boise brewpub at this time of year are absent — and the ski-themed Faceplant Porter isn’t being tapped much.
Traffic into the Chevron station on Hill Road is down as much as half compared to last year at this time.“It’s pretty bad. This is our busiest time of year, with the ski rush,” said Coty Shields, a 20-year-old who works at the station. “It keeps us going all day.”Shields said the station is opening an hour later on the weekends this year due to the decreased traffic.
No employees have lost their jobs, but some are taking unpaid days off.It’s a similar story for Boise’s other snow-related businesses, which are keeping their eyes on the skies in hopes that Old Man Winter starts cooperating.What will be the latest-ever opening for the Bogus Basin ski area — the previous record was Jan. 6, 1989 — forced Bogus managers this week to implement a cost-reduction plan, including cutting pay and positions.Several hundred seasonal workers, who normally would have received a month or more of pay by now, have gotten just one paycheck — for a few days of training they received in November.
“There’s nothing else wrong, other than the lack of snow,” said Mike Shirley, general manager at Bogus Basin. “We’ve got a workforce ready to go and a physical plant ready to go. It’s just the need for snow that weighs so heavily on us — and the fact that we don’t see anything significant in the forecast.”Bogus Basin needs at least 16 inches of snow in order to open. There’s very little on the mountain now, and temperatures reached 49 degrees Wednesday. The next chance for snow is Friday, but forecasters aren’t expecting to see more than a half-inch of accumulation, said Weather Service meteorologist Dave Groenert.
The delayed opening at Bogus is significant for ski shops in Boise, but not as catastrophic as some might think, said Jeff Lewerenz, one of the owners of Greenwood’s Ski Haus on Bogus Basin Road. “It’s a bummer, but there’s skiing around,” Lewerenz said, noting that Brundage, Tamarack, Pomerelle and Sun Valley are all open. “The people that want to ski are going there. That’s keeping us steady with sales.”“As long as people can get out and ski, that helps,” Lewerenz said.Greenwood’s has been operating in Boise since 1957.
Lewerenz said he and his business partner try to save up during good years — like last year, when ski season at Bogus started on Thanksgiving — so they have operating cash to get through the late starts.He’s had to cut the hours of some of his 40 permanent full- and part-time staff but hasn’t laid anyone off.Lewerenz said it’s not a matter of if he can sell his inventory — but when.
On Wednesday, Brundage announced a special to entice disappointed Bogus skiers to the McCall resort: Bogus Basin season pass holders can get deep discounts on Brundage skiing.At the Eco Lounge Freeride Shop in Boise, owner Mike Teschner is offering 25 to 30 percent off packages, such as coats and pants, or bindings and skis. The shop is also offering training in backcountry safety and advice on where backcountry skiers can go.
Teschner said he’s had to cut his three full-time staffers to part time. He hasn’t brought back the four part-time workers he employed last season.Teschner has been selling equipment for skiers, snowboarders, skateboarders and mountain bikers at his Bogus Basin Road shop for seven years. He opened a Meridian shop three years ago. “I feel that the winter is going to come. I’m still optimistic,” Teschner said. “You just have to look a little harder to find a place to make your turns. …
You’ve got to hike for your turns, or travel.”Katy Moeller

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Idaho: Snow-starved ski resort cuts jobs, pay

Idaho: Snow-starved ski resort cuts jobs, pay

BOISE, Idaho

The stingy snow gods are forcing a ski resort above Idaho’s capital to dramatically reduce costs.

Bogus Basin Mountain Resort is eliminating positions, cutting year-round workers’ pay and scaling back capital projects after its lifts remained idle during the holidays, traditionally one of its most-lucrative revenue periods.

Its general manager and chief financial officer plan to work without pay for an extended period, while other positions were eliminated.

There’s almost no chance the resort will open by Friday. If it doesn’t, that would make this the latest opening in the 69-year-old resort’s history.

The latest previous opening was Jan. 6, way back in 1989.

Bogus Basin makes much of its money through annual season pass sales, but it still relies on day-pass customers for a significant share of its revenue.

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Wyo. ski resorts report good conditions, business

Wyo. ski resorts report good conditions, business

By BOB MOEN of Business Week


There’s less snowfall than last winter’s record dumping, but most Wyoming ski resorts are reporting good conditions and good business so far this season.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort reports an upper mountain base of 44 inches that is below average for this time of year and below the 76-inch base at this time last year, but resort spokeswoman Anna Olson said that’s better than most other major resorts in the Rocky Mountain region.

“We consider ourselves very lucky,” Olson said Tuesday. “We know that other resorts do not have nearly as much snow and haven’t been able to open much terrain. We’re seeing lot of regional traffic right now because of that.”

Most of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s terrain and all its lifts are open, Olson said.

Nearby Grand Targhee and Snow King resorts also report all their lifts in operation.

Olson said the snow in the Jackson Hole area was a little thin over the Christmas weekend but a snowstorm last week brought much improved skiing conditions in time for the New Year’s weekend.

“We made up for it over the New Year period for sure,” she said.

Elsewhere in Wyoming, Hogadon Ski Area at Casper reports a 23-inch base.

“Normally at this time of year we’re only at about 15-inch base,” said Gary Vantrease, ski area manager for city of Casper. “The snow arrived in large quantities, and we’ve really been successful at selling passes and our ticket sales have been strong so far.”

And Sleeping Giant Ski Area, 46 miles west of Cody, is 100 percent open with a base of 12 to 36 inches.

Service manager Gen Armstrong said snowfall is down about 50 percent from last year but the Sleeping Giant ski hill still has received about 40 inches this winter.

“We’ve got all our runs open, so that’s fantastic,” Armstrong said.

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