The winter snow-sports season has begun slowly throughout the European Alps. Many reliable snow-sure resorts, St. Anton am Arlberg being a prime example, are suffering from an almost unprecedented lack of snow. Many will suggest the season is yet young but several areas that offer high-altitude skiing have usually by now long hit the ground running, benefiting from the pre-Christmas crowds taking advantage of cheaper accommodation and lift-passes before the festivities begin in earnest. Winter openings, an anglicized term now often used by many resorts seem to be getting earlier year on year –  Ischgl’s being nearly three weeks ago. Should you wish to pay top dollar to see a dropped in James Blunt perform for the occasion, the quality and quantity of natural snow in the Paznaun region might be of lesser consequence to you. Those though wishing to make first-tracks through anything other than artificially produced snow run the risk of being disappointed.

Yes, resorts with a more snow-sure reputation are going to want to push the envelope by squeezing a few more weeks out of every season, to sweat their assets a little more. A truism though throughout the alps, be it in the Oetztal or at more modest altitudes is that the weather holds sway, retains the whip hand and cannot be relied upon to produce snow on demand or, the temperatures necessary in the absence of the genuine article to be able to produce artificial snow cover.
Vogel, above Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj received a large fall of snow in November, enabling locals to get on the slopes before the tourist season had time to react to such an early blast of winter. The subsequent freeze thaw effect has though made the slopes icy and in effect, not operational until the pistes are naturally refreshed since Vogel doesn’t entertain artificial snow-making. The protracted saga of Maribor Pohorje’s operational problems have almost placed the amount of snow received into second place, such has been the complicated nature of who will run the ski infrastructure and the chain of hotels owned by former operator SC Pohorje. Whilst success in business is rarely dictated by luck, the reality of the situation in Maribor is such that only sufficient snow depths can ensure viability of the Pohorje region’s winter-sports infrastructure; no amount of business acumen or industry experience can ultimately succeed against the capricious hand of Mother Nature.
Being on the sunny side of the alps, Slovenia can never with any real certainty guarantee an amount of snow to please enthusiasts, municipalities, entrepreneurs and the bank manager. With the country currently being engulfed by a conflagration of fire-sales of many of its assets, investment opportunities are undoubtedly abundant for the savvy venture capitalist. It is though to be wondered in such a climate whether winter-sports operations will become increasingly unattractive to investors, especially as banks tighten their already stringent criteria by only lending finance for ‘sure-fire certainties’, if ever such opportunities actually exist in the first place. With Kranjska Gora, Slovenia’s most famous ski-resort yet to receive snow other than the snow-cannon produced variety, the time might now be upon us for Slovenia’s ski resorts to be realistic as to whether they wish to instead concentrate on the hiking and mountaineering market, a demographic that provides a steadier income-stream over a longer period of the year and who are not overly reliant upon a type of weather that is becoming increasingly unpredictable and, potentially ruinous through its scarcity.
Reporting on this issue can be found at: RTV Slovenia: Ski resorts await winter’s presence