The Val d’Isere Haven of Snow and Skiing

The skiing season this year has already seen a greater snowfall than the total snowfall last year throughout the majority of the Alp resorts. 300cm so far and a forecast for even more means that there has hardly been time for the sun for shine, but who cares when you’re thigh deep in powder?! This season is set to be one of a lifetime.

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At times it has even been too much for the instructors to cope with!

And here is the current forecast from the Val d’Isere Website just to prove this is all true:

So you should now know that this is the season to go skiing. Find a place in Val d’Isere through either of these sites – http://www.valdisere.com/gb/index.php http://www.valdinet.com/

Finally, more amazing skiing posts and updates can be found here. Enjoy the New Year!

When Snow Arrives, You Will Be Prepared To Enjoy It!

For some people, snow can be a real hassle but it should not be. It is always a magical moment when snow blankets the ground and should definitely be something to enjoy. No matter what age or sex you are, you WILL enjoy doing the things in this post.

  1. Make Sculptures - Go to your local park or even garden and get building. You don’t have to be too talented to make a traditional snowman and it is always very rewarding. Let others admire your handiwork and take in the compliments. Don’t worry about your age for doing this because everyone always does. I remember when snow fell in England last year there were more snowmen in my park than people! What a sight this was to drive through.
  2. Snowball Fights – Invite some friends over and have a good old snowball fight in the snow. Organise teams or go for a free for all. If you are really feeling up for the challenge, create shelters with underground tunnels to other entrances. Your opponent will never be able to beat this.
  3. Go Sledding – On a board, a piece of wood or even your bare bum sledding is always good fun. Find a steep enough hill and guess what you have to do next, go down it! Head first, feet first, sideways. Have fun experimenting the best way to get down the mountain. Try linking up with other people and going down at the same time. This isn’t dangerous!
  4. Go Skiing – If the hills are big and steep enough and you have all the equipment then by all means go skiing. The only problem is it’s not cheap getting boots and skis, and if there is no chairlift it will be very tiring walking up the hill. But don’t worry, it will be worth it and enjoy a hot chocolate after finishing.
  5. Make Snow Angels – Lie down in the snow and move your arms and legs at the same time. Slowly and carefully stand back up and move away. How pretty, there is a angel in the snow! Congratulations on making it.
  6. Admire the Snow – I seem to do this quite often but I just can’t help it. I love the snow so much that I end up staring out of my window at the snow for hours. Take in all the beautiful patterns of the flakes. I challenge you to beat my record of watching the snow for five hours on end while counting 2,000,000 different flakes.
  7. Draw the Snow – If you like the snow lots but not quite enough to just stare at it, drawing single flakes or whole snowy scenes can be rewarding. All you need is a paper and a pencil so get to it!
  8. Photograph the Snow - Like the previous idea, the snow is so amazing so capture your fantastic moments in it. Perhaps you could film a movie plot in it.
  9. Sleep – Finally, I recommend that you sleep in the snow because it is incredibly comfy. To be honest, I prefer the snow to my bed. This may just be me but you should give it a try.

Have any other ideas? Please tell me so that I can add them to the list and try them out. If you have enjoyed doing these fun things please share pictures of your sculptures and anything else. Thanks :)

10. Eat the Snow – Thanks to Dounia for this idea. Fresh snow is so tasty and some people say that it is better than the finest Italian meal. So taste the snow but here’s one piece of advice. Yellow snow may look tasty with a bit of flavour, but trust me: it’s best avoided!

At last, Winter has arrived in the Alps!

Snow is finally falling all over the French, Swiss and Italian ski resorts as we speak. This may be a late arrival but goodness me is it needed! After one of the worst recorded November snowfalls in history, we look set to receive a lot this December. The snow cannons can have a well deserved rest as a metre of real snow should be falling over the next week. There is no point denying it – I am honestly excited to go skiing!

50cm has fallen in Val d’Isere so far, with snow forecasted for seven of the eight next days

Everybody will be relieved to know that their ski holidays are now safe. There is certainly going to be enough snow and some may argue that there’s even going to be too much. Low pressure and cold temperatures all over the French Alps are causing a good amount of precipitation.

Unfortunately, I still have to wait until the 14th of December until I can put my ski boots and that will be one good day. First day back to skiing this season will see me racing in Les Deux Alpes for my school. Imagine acing through the giant slalom course with knee high powder. That would be an absolute dream! Maybe I am getting a bit carried away, but today’s and all the forecasted snow is definitely a good sign.

Like if you love snow!

How are polar bears suited for the harsh conditions of the Arctic?

If you think that England’s weather is cold and bleak, consider the Arctic where temperatures rarely rise above 0°C. During January and February the temperature hovers around -34°C and it is not unknown to drop much lower. Obviously, very few plants or animals are able to thrive in these conditions but for some reason it is here that the polar bears live. Throughout this essay I am going to explore just how they are able to do so, and why the ice does not get the better of them.

I want you to understand that polar bears are by no means simple animals. The adaptations that they have made are rather subtle but definitely make a large positive impact on their lives. The most noticeable feature of a polar bear is that a thick layer of fur covers it. Despite what we are led to believe, this fur is not actually white. Each strand of hair is a clear hollow tube that looks white because the sunlight is easily reflected. The hollow fur traps air inside, thus making it buoyant in water. This layer of air provides insulation between their warm bodies and the cold Arctic air and water. On sunny days this can keep the bear warm at 98°F (when they are resting). This insulation is lost when the fur is covered with oil, but it means that the hairs do not mat when wet, allowing the polar bears to easily shake free of water and ice that may form after swimming.

The fur also provides very good camouflage against the ice. The light colour means that it is very hard to spot a polar bear in the snow because it is difficult to see white on white. The polar bear gives absolutely nothing away when hunting; it goes as far as covering its black nose with its paws to hide it. The combination of this camouflage and the bear’s weight and momentum means that it is an extremely deadly hunter.

The polar bear’s skin below the fur is black to ensure that there is a better heat retention rate. This works because black is the best colour for retaining heat. There is also a thick layer of fat under the skin that can be up to 11cm thick. The skin insulates the bear from the Arctic cold, but can at times be too effective. There is a chance that overheating may occur, even when the temperature is below freezing. To prevent overheating, the bear moves slowly while taking breaks at regular intervals. Excess heat is released from the body through areas where fur is absent or where blood vessels are close to the skin e.g. Muzzle, nose, ears, foot, pads, inner things, shoulders. It is also important that the polar bears enjoy a cool swim on warm days after physical activity to not overheat.

Polar bears are very strong swimmers and will swim across bays or wide leads without hesitation. They are known to swim long distances over several hours. In 1988 one bear was tracked swimming continuously over a distance of more than 100km. Front paws are used to propel them through the water doggy-paddle style, while the hind feet and legs are held flat and are used as rudders. Swimming is useful to polar bears as it enables them to catch prey such as seals. Even though seals are faster swimmers, the bears have good momentum at 10km/hour and certainly have the advantage when hunting on land.

But this is not all. The polar bears also have long, stiff hair between the pads of their feet and small rounded ears; both which are very useful for the following reasons. The hair does not only protect the bear’s feet from the cold but can provide traction on the ice. This means that the bear does not slip on the slippery ice, and it helps it to swim in cold, icy water. Finally, this hair is similar to the polar bear’s fur because it usually shakes free any water or ice formed after swimming. The small and rounded ears prevent water from entering the bear’s ears and freezing their eardrums. Obviously, bigger ears would mean that more water enters, so this is a clever adaptation. Therefore, body warmth is conserved in sub-zero temperatures.

During the peak of winter, temperatures can be so cold that water poured out from a bottle would freeze before it touched the ground! The polar bears have to seek shelter and dig dens several metres deep. The combination of the bear and shape of the den means that temperatures inside can stay above freezing. Another factor to consider is that there would be less oxygen to breathe underground, but of course the polar bear’s take this into consideration. The roofs of the dens are thin enough for oxygen molecules to pass through, so there is little problem. The overall effect that the dens create is shelter from winds that sweep over the ice in strong gusts, unbroken by trees or vegetation.

Unfortunately, more and more polar bears are dying these days as they are finding it harder to live. Finding food is a lot more difficult than it used to be because of less ice and higher sea levels. This means that the polar bears have to swim, which uses more energy and they are slower in water. The bears have to go through painful weeks, sometimes even months, where they have nothing to eat at all. These periods are incredibly stressful for them, and looking into the future it seems hard to see a positive outcome.

Summary of Adaptations

  • Thick fur
  • Black skin
  • Inches of fat
  • Long stiff hairs on feet  
  • Small rounded ears
  • Powerful legs for swimming/hunting
  • Ability to dig shelters
  • Fast movement

Powder and Parties? Why Val d’Isere is the best place to ski in 2012

If you talk to anyone who has been to Val d’Isere they will usually mention one of two things; the off-piste and the nightlife – not necessarily in that order.

The resort attracts everyone from the rich and famous (Richard Branson is a regular) who can enjoy the 5-star chalets and fine dining, to snowboarders who live and breathe their sport, squeezing into a small apartment with six other like-minded riders. Once people have been here, it is impossible to stop them returning.

The key factor that lures people back is the skiing. You may sometimes get more snow in America but in Val there is access to challenging slopes, awesome off-piste and a good track record for blue-sky skiing.

Of course, the Espace Killy ski area is synonymous with the legendary Jean Claude Killy, one of France’s most famous downhill skiers. Every year Val d’Isere plays host to the Alpine World cup drawing attention to the fast downhill slopes of the resort. It is not unusual to bump into the ‘Herminator’ in the bakery.

Resort at a glance

  • Open from late November to early May
  • 300km of marked and interconnecting pistes
  • 97 ski lifts (11 free)
  • 14 black pistes
  • Two glaciers for summer skiing
  • Two snow parks
  • Runs from 1560m to 3456m
  • 44km of cross-country
  • Too much off-piste to measure
  • Too many bars to visit

LINKS   http://www.valdinet.com/

    Excited for Skiing?

Excited for Skiing?

The truth is, skiing is always going to be a major part of my life. It is the one time I feel completely free and as the new season slowly edges closer I cannot help but feel excited, especially after watching clips like the following.

The skiing shown in Warren Miller’s film is insane, and I cannot wait for the full release of ‘Like There’s No Tomorrow’. The fresh powder tracks are a rare find normally, but the crew seem to be skiing it everywhere. Alaska, North America, the Alps and even some Southern Hemisphere skiing; they have been there.

This year I have been lucky enough to do some pre-season skiing through racing with school. Even though this is only very basic on a dry ski slope, it is a great way to boost anybody’s confidence. If you have never skied before, I really do recommend that you try it out before it may no longer be possible with the Globe’s  temperature increasing. Val d’Isere in France is my resort of preference, but anywhere can be good and I will post a blog soon comparing others.

Val d’Isere