Jean Massad gets a face full of powder | Photo Chris Loerke
It’s been a strange start to the ski season in the Northern Alps. A late October snowfall gave way to worryingly warm and sunny weather through November and December, and snow panic was starting to set in.
Constant refreshing of online weather charts yielded no hope, ski forums were filled with threads of despair as the Christmas holiday weeks approached, and a state of weary resignation permeated the air in the office. Some resorts managed limited openings, and we scrambled to track the limited amounts of piste-side powder available, but things weren’t looking good. We headed back to our various homes for Christmas, praying that things would look better on our return…
Praise be to the bearded one in red: Santa delivered our presents in the end! Shortly after Christmas Frau Holle’s beautiful white bounty began to fall like benison upon the heads of the faithful, and winter was back on track.
As the LUEX Snow Travel team re-convened in our Top Secret Alpine HQ, we were astounded at the depths of snow lying on what just a few weeks before were verdant green fields and pine forests: Vorarlberg was right in the firing line of the storm, and scored big time. Giggling like children, we made plans to meet for first lifts, and went to bed.
The next morning we met up at St Gallenkirch in Austria’s Montafon valley, one of Europe’s lesser-known freeride gems, and headed straight for the Garfrescha lift. Diving off the piste and into the powder was a revelation: this wasn’t typical dense alpine snow; it was more akin to the cold smoke of dreams that’s normally the preserve of the powder paradise Hokkaido: dry and light, billowing into clouds at the slightest disturbance, and well over 40cms of it.
With exclamations of disbelief (“OH MY GOD!” was a common theme), shouts of pure glee and more than a few expletives, we threw ourselves downhill in an orgy of faceshots, pillows and pure snow-gluttony. What a way to start the New Year!