It is late August, as I write this blog post, and I am currently delivering a Level 2 Ski Instructor training and certification course based in Cervinia, Italy with skiing on the Zermatt glacier in Switzerland. There have been many reports this summer of glaciers closing early (Tignes and Les Deux Alps in France for example) and a fair bit of doom and gloom, in the press and on social media, about summer skiing and whether it has much of a future with global warming accelerating. So, I thought it would be useful to write about my experiences this week and what it is like to be skiing at this time of year in the European Alps.
To an extent everything that we do gets judged based on our expectations and while it may sound incredibly obvious summer skiing is not like winter skiing!! So if you come skiing on glaciers in the summer expecting winter conditions, both in terms of snow quality and the amount of terrain available, then you will undoubtedly be disappointed. I have been blessed with great weather this week on the Zermatt glacier as can be seen from the photos below.
How much skiing do you get?
A typical day begins with riding the lifts to the glacier from approximately 8am and then skiing from 8:45 until 1:30 - 2pm. Initially the snow if firm (which is fantastic for training) and then gradually softens as the morning progresses with the sweet spot of the day being around 11am when the snow conditions are heroic. Towards the end of the skiing: 12:30 until 2pm, the conditions are slushy and more typical of late season spring skiing. The conditions are ideal for race training (and may national teams use the glaciers), for instructor training (this week in addition to IASI the Italian's have been running their first level exam) and for performance training for recreational skiers and instructors. The Zermatt glacier is probably the biggest offering a surprising amount of terrain which goes up to an impressive 3800 metres.
One of the great advantages to summer skiing is that the afternoons provide a fab opportunity to engage in a variety of other sports in the wonderful alpine environment such as hiking, mountain biking, swimming (in the lakes) or more adventurous sports such as climbing and paragliding. So, with skiing in the mornings and the opportunity of doing other sports in the afternoon 'summer skiing' is a great way to keep fit, develop technique and enjoy the amazing mountain environment. In short, it provides the perfect environment for mindfulness and flow. Of course how much 'activity' you choose to do is entirely up to you and there are lots of great bars and restaurants and alpine towns like Cervinia have a great selection with Italian charm, Italian coffee (arguably the best in the world) and excellent value for money.
For next summer 2020 we are looking at using Cervinia as a base for our Flow Coach certification course, which will give participants the chance to engage in their chosen sport, in the mornings, and then learn all about flow (how to experience personally and how to create the conditions to facilitate it for others) in the afternoons. If you would like to register your interest in our flow coach certification course then please get in touch.
Coming back to the 'title' of this blog post: Summer skiing - is it worth it? My answer is quite clearly YES. There is no doubt that global warming is accelerating the demise of the glaciers and skiing in the European alps in summer will become more limited, both in terms of the terrain available and how much of the summer they are open. However, when you understand what summer skiing is all about and the opportunities that a holiday in this kind of environment can provide, why would you not come and enjoy the fabulous alps?
We also run courses in Cervinia in November and have availability on our first week 16-23 November. Click here for more details.
Useful links to some European glaciers:
Les Deux Alps: https://www.les2alpes.com/en
Sass Fee: https://www.saas-fee.ch/en/