The snow sports industry is entirely at the whim of the weather and – as much as we wish that we could – we simply cannot control it. Having a bad snow season unfortunately goes with the territory, though of course our disappointment is entirely valid when we fly across the globe only to find that the snow is not what we had expected. That said, low snow years in ski resorts can also have some unexpected upsides, so here are our top 5 silver linings to a low snow season.
1. Less crowded
As you can imagine, once word gets out that a ski destination is struggling for snow, far less people make plans to go there and some may even cancel their trips. The result for those already there or committed to going is far less people, crowds, hype, noise and generally busyness. During mid-week, one could find themselves alone on wide open slopes, no queues and a distinct lack of other tourists fighting for spaces in restaurants, buses and gondolas! It is often during these times that visitors are able to get a more authentic, less touristy experience of the country that they are in, and not just the resort and its associated amenities.
2. Better service
Enormously unfortunate for the businesses, but a definite bonus for the consumer is that the service is likely to be better in a poor snow season, in compression a good one. When less visitors are distributed throughout a resort, businesses have to work harder to reach and maintain their customers – and this is likely to translate in the form of improved service and maybe even discounts. It calls for them to bring their product to a new level of excellence, in order to rise above the competition that would surely be fierce in a slow snow year. The winners of this scenario are definitely the guests, and it also makes sense that when there are less people to focus on, the service is naturally better.
3. It may not affect the skiing at all
Understandably, if people have come for powder snow or off piste riding, a low snow season is a real challenge and those people will be disappointed. The same is true for those looking for a winter wonderland experience, and/or those that have not experienced a true winter atmosphere before. For the majority of skiers though – and those that primarily stay on the piste – it may have little or no affect on their actual skiing as groomers and snow making machines work hard at night to ensure optimal skiing conditions on piste. Especially for families and children, the slopes on even `dry` years can be more than adequate to enjoy plenty of good turns, and there is no reason why skills cannot be harnessed and developed, and fun cannot be had on piste. Beginners and novice skiers too will be at no disadvantage, and if anything, learning in less snow will make it all the more satisfying when they later encounter more of it. An adult who has learnt to snowplough wearing sunglasses, or a 5 year old skiing with grass showing a few meters away on the side of the slope, will have an equally enjoyable experience of skiing that if there was lots of snow!
4. Favourable weather and temperatures
Staying on the thought train of skiing conditions, low snow years are the result of less precipitation and/or milder temperatures, making for a milder, less harsh environment. Again, for kids and families having good visibility and not fighting the biting cold all day is great thing, and I think we can all agree that our skiing and enjoyment levels are elevated when we can see where we are going and feel comfortable on the mountain. As amazing as powder snow is, few of us enjoy whiteouts, blizzards, windburn and freezing digits – the necessary weather patterns that come with great snow. And – when when we can physically see our surroundings, we can develop a much stronger sense of the area and resort that we are in, and we will ski with more confidence.
5. Enjoy the other draws
Anyone that has been on a ski holiday before will be able to relate to the feeling of maximising every moment on the slopes – because you’ve come a long way and spent a lot of money to ski. The problem is, if we are all rather honest, there may be times when you feel like taking it easy, having a break from the boots, or seeing what else there is to do in the surrounding area. The good news for the low snow holiday is that it somehow removes the pressure of having to ski every minute of every day, and allows us to engage with our environment and enjoy experiences that we may have overlooked had the snow conditions been fantastic! Interestingly, these unexpected and unplanned moments can be some of the most lasting, and give us the most accurate taste of the country we are in. After all, when in Japan, why not enjoy a bowl of ramen and an onsen (Japanese hot spring), or when in Austria – why shouldn’t we go bobsledding and enjoy some Gluhwein!? The bottom line is, we can shrug off the pressure to ski at every possible moment, and embrace what else the area has going for it.
We are not ignoring the fact that a ski resort lacking in snow is disappointing, but there are some legitimate upsides to that. After all – a holiday truly is what you make it.
Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.