The Summer skiing season in the European Alps is upon us yet again, and with the proceeding winter providing some of the deepest snow conditions in years, we rekon it's going to be a good one...here's the lowdown on where to go and what to expect if you find yourself up in them there mountains this summer.
Les Deux Alpes
Les Deux Alpes has one of the best summer parks in the Alps, and this year the star will probably be the new 22 feet superpipe and its Olympic size (6.50m high) walls. There will also be an air bag at the base of the park this year, and next to the superpipe you’ll find, as usual, a smaller pipe for beginners plus a new ski lift dedicated to the two pipes which will hopefully prevent the occasional queuing problems of past summers. Opening in 2009 is from June 13th to August 29th, with first lift at 07.00am running through till 12.30. We rate the park highly, and there are more kickers, rails and jibs than you can shake a stick at. Watch out for Kumi Yama, the Japanese themed freestyle contest that runs from 3-5th July...there’ll be some crazy features built for that, and some even crazier parties no doubt.
Le Grand Motte glacier above Tignes provides a good variety of terrain, though is not at large as its French counterpart in Les Deux Alpes. Depending on the time of year and the snow coverage, there are red, blue and black runs, and the park seems to be improving again after a few years in the wilderness. Skiing starts on the 20th June till 30th August, and if you fancy honing your skills in the park then you could do no worse than signing up for a camp with the boys at GFS (global freestyle) where French legend PG Conrady will be sure to up your skills. A real bonus at Tignes is that skiing doesn’t have stop when the glacier closes at 1pm, as you can take your skis down to the great wateramp facility on the lake and bust all those tricks that that you wish you could do without breaking your balls!
Zermatt's glacier is located at Klein Matterhorn, where the Zermatt pistes link to nearby Cervinia in Italy. The pisted parts of the glacier are quite flat, but the snow is usually pretty good due to its aspect and altitude. New for this year is that the Italian side of the Zermatt/Cervinia ski area will be opened, with the resulting area becoming one of the largest summer domains in Europe. There will be 13 runs, most of them graded intermediate (red) but with three blues also. A major attraction is the Gravity Park situated between the two areas, where we’d say the half-pipe and rails are probably the best features. The Cervinia side will open on 27th June through to 6th September, with the Zermatt side and snowpark being open through till October.
Further information: www.zermatt.ch
Saas Fee is a traditional car-free resort with skiing at the Mittelallalin at over 3,600m. The glacier at Saas-Fee has 20km of skiable area, and is easily accessible by underground funicular. Being popular with race teams and freestylers in equal measure (which makes for some great banter!...) means there are perfect pistes and a great park which is shaped and updated on a daily basis. The pipe is one of the best summer one’s in Europe, and we hope they build the monster hip again this year. 2009 proceedings kick off on the 4th July, with the annual Saas Fee Ride Big Air competition on the 18th July where you can find the world’s finest throwing down on the big kickers. If you fancy a bit of coaching, then look no further than the British freeski camps which will make you into a world beater at any discipline you fancy, from slopestyle to half-pipe, through to big air, big mountain and moguls. If you fancy unwinding with a hard nights partying, be sure to check out the Popcorn underneath the hotel Dom...you’ll probably see us there!
Austria always has one of the greater choices of places to go in the summer skiing stakes, though it can be hard to find out what is open when. In our humble opinion, Hintertux and Dachstein are best for true summer freestyle ski action. Here’s some information about those two , and the pick of the rest.
The glacier is accessed by lifts which are about a 15-minute walk from the village. The Hintertux glacier is one of the steeper, more challenging glaciers in Europe, with some great and varied runs. It also a World Cup half-pipe, and a pretty decent and varied park It is 45 minutes from Mayrhofen, and is open pretty much year round.
Dachstein has some of the best shaped features around, thanks to Q-parks and the Atomic superpark. The glacier also has one of the nicest backdrops around, and an 11 month opening period. This year opened on 30th May, so what are you waiting for?
Further information: www.dachstein.atomicsuperparks.com
The Stubai Glacier is the largest glacier in Austria, and is about 20 minutes from the resort of Neustift. This is a big glacier with a huge variety of runs, but no snowpark to speak of. The area closed for skiing in mid-June 2009, and will re-open again in the autumn. One for you race fans or carvers out there.
Further information: www.stubai.at
Near the village of Kaprun is the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. The glacier has a large ski area with lots of varied runs, mostly of intermediate standard. The Gletscher terrain park is open almost year round and is pretty decent.
Further information: www.kitzsteinhorn.at
Passo Tonale is a purpose-built village set high up in Trentino. The Presena Glacier is open mainly in spring and autumn, and closes this year on the 28th June. Dates have not yet been set for the autumn opening.
Further information: www.valdisole.net
Starting 13th June, you can ski on a relatively small area (8km of runs) in Val Senales from 07.00-13.00. There is a snowpark on the glacier in winter, and we know there is going to be a pretty decent setup for this summer. Check out the this shot for an overview, and follow the link below for more shots of the park for 2009...this looks good!
Words: Pally Learmond