Well Into Winter, the Alps Finally Get a First Snow After an unusually warm season, snow is finally falling in the Alps. Michele Norris talks with Georg Romang, the communications and PR director for Crans Montana tourism in Crans Montana, Switzerland.
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Well Into Winter, the Alps Finally Get a First Snow

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Well Into Winter, the Alps Finally Get a First Snow

Well Into Winter, the Alps Finally Get a First Snow

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States further to the east are coping with the opposite problem. There's not enough snow. That's because of very warm weather all through the northeast all through this winter, and that means trouble for ski resorts stretching from New Hampshire to New Jersey.

Mr. MARK Schroetel (General Manager, Bear Creek Mountain Resort): I'm Mark Schroetel. I'm the general manager at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania. We're sitting here enjoying a 60-degree day in the early parts of January with bright, blue sun. It feels like we should be at the beach rather than a ski resort.

NORRIS: Something wrong with that picture.

Mr. Schroetel: Yeah, there's something definitely wrong with that picture.

NORRIS: Well, I understand out there, you've taken desperate measures to try to appeal to the weather god.

Mr. Schroetel: Yeah. One of our ski instructors brought it to our attention that there's a Norse god of snow named Ullr, so we tried to sacrifice last Friday to Ullr. Had a nice bonfire with some stand-in skis because we were a little concerned about burning skis that have a lot of petroleum products in them and exacerbating the global warming problem.

NORRIS: It must be pretty bad if you're burning skis in effigy.

Mr. Schroetel: Yeah, it's something we've never experienced before. This is my 13th year in the ski industry, and we've had some questionable winters but never had a winter that just never arrived.

NORRIS: Now, you're usually trying to sell skis, not burning them. Where did the skis come from?

Mr. Schroetel: They were skis that we actually made in our woodshop here. We made them bigger than life hoping that we would get bigger-than-life results.

NORRIS: But it sounds like Ullr is standing back with his arms crossed. No snow for you, yet.

Mr. Schroetel: So far, but we're not giving up hope yet.

NORRIS: Now, you're making light of this or laughing about this, but I imagine that from a business standpoint this is no laughing matter.

Mr. Schroetel: It's no laughing matter at all. I mean, we missed Christmas week, and that's one of our most profitable times of the year, and it's about $1.5 million loss so far.

NORRIS: Any snow on the horizon, any hope that you'll still get some measure of snow before spring?

Mr. Schroetel: We haven't seen anything on the horizon that predicts any natural snow, but we are looking at two different computer models right now, and it looks like January 9 to 10, we could see a turnaround in our fortune and start making snow again.

NORRIS: Thanks so much.

Mr. Schroetel: Thank you.

NORRIS: That's Mark Schroetel, general manager of Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania. That's about an hour north of Philadelphia.

The ski business was looking pretty much the same in the Swiss Alps this winter, fewer visitors because of warm weather and not much snow - until this week. The new snowfall is good news for Georg Romang, he's the communications director for tourism at the Swiss ski resort of Crans Montana

Mr. GEORG ROMANG (Communications Director for Tourism, Crans Montana): We had a little bit of lack of snow to start with, Christmas, New Year, but now it's much better, anyway. The problem was all over Europe and equally here in Crans Montana, yes?

NORRIS: So were the tourists staying away, or are they still coming in to at least take in the scenery if they can't actually ski?

Mr. ROMANG: Tourists could actually ski. Not much but we provided them with a lot of other options, concerts and other activities and snow-tubing and sledding and all sorts of things. So people were really happy, and they realize that nature is as nature is, and we had less complaints than other years with normal snow conditions, which is absolutely strange, but we are happy and proud of that.

NORRIS: Could you describe Crans Montana for us? What's it look like out there?

Mr. ROMANG: Crans Montana is like - I wouldn't say a town - it's a big resort, which has about 5,000 inhabitants and capacity of 50,000 tourist beds, and it's facing south. We are the sunny resort in the Alps because we really have sun from the evening to the evening.

We are facing the Matterhorn and the Mont Blanc, so we are exactly in the middle of the Alps in Europe. And actually, right now I'm talking to you. It's snowing, heavy snowfall. It's beautiful. I'm sure we will have some good powder tomorrow morning, and no, we are happy. We didn't lose out, and now it's snowing, so the rest of the season looks great.

NORRIS: So are you going to hit the slopes first thing tomorrow morning?

Mr. ROMANG: I think I'll sneak out of the office and have some touch with the powder tomorrow, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Some touch with the powder. I like that.

Mr. ROMANG: Yeah.

NORRIS: Mr. Romang, thanks so much. All the best to you.

Mr. ROMANG: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: Georg Romang is the communications and PR director for the Crans Montana tourism board in Crans Montana, Switzerland.

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