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Summer Snow Brings 2008 Ski Season Hope

By: Roger Munns

European weather this summer has been a strange mix, with different countries experiencing greatly differing weather patterns.

Mediterranean countries such as Greece have seen temperatures soar over the hundred farenheit mark, while in Britain floods caused misery for hundreds of thousands of people.

The floods affecting large parts of England have claimed four lives, and left a hundred thousand homes without water for two weeks in parts of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

Insurance companies have warned that the floods will cost small businesses millions, and insurers are expecting tens of millions in claims from homeowners. The British government has offered emergency aid to the worst affected areas to help with the cost of the clear-up. Yorkshire in the north of England saw some of the heaviest flooding, with thousands of homes left without power and three people dying.

But extreme weather, with snow in July, was a welcome sight in the French Pyrenees and Andorra in particular which had little snow in their usual ski season of December to April, bringing hope that this winter will see a good level of snow.

Andorra is a ski country and a well known tax haven, and traditionally the year gets off to a flying start with many serious skiers.

But this year proved to be different, with the worst snow falls for twenty years and a distinct lack of tourists.

Andorra has invested heavily in new infrastructure and facilities for the ski tourist in recent years, which would make a second successive poor season particularly hard to bear for the country's ski tourist industry,if there is a lack of snow for the 2007-8 season as well.

This year Andorra opened a new family friendly ski park in Arinsal, moving away from her old image of a cheap and cheerful ski holiday for 18-30 year olds to one that caters well for all. The snow park includes a conveyor belt and a game zone, designed to give children confidence before they ski and use the chair lifts.

Andorra is fortunate compared to many regions where ski holidays are an important part of the economy, as it is also a tax haven, second only to Monaco in Europe for popularity, and equal in tax benefits.

As well as attracting new residents with high net wealth who contribute to Andorra's economy while in residence with their spending power, Andorra has a good banking system that provides good employment prospects.

To obtain residency in Andorra, applications need to be submitted in Catalan. A notarised copy of the applicants passport, birth certificate and a certificate of good conduct from the home country are submitted at the same time. Residency normally takes between three and six months to be approved.

While the snow would often start in early November before this ski season, disastrously no sustained snow periods arrived until March this year.

No official figures have been released yet as to how many tourists visited this year, but some officials are reported to be guessing at a year on year fall of ten per cent. Private businesses suggest the figure could be closer to forty per cent. Given that private businesses see financial figures on a daily basis most people in the Andorra tourist industry are veering towards the higher forty per cent figure rather than what could be an optimistic official estimate.

Despite good snow in mid March and full occupancy at Easter, it was decided not to prolong the agony of Andorra's worst tourist season for a generation, and the slopes were closed at the end of the Easter holidays, some three weeks earlier than some previous ski seasons.

Andorra has come a long way since the mid eighties when most ski tourists were under the age of twenty five and looking for a cheap ski holiday. With investment in hotels and in the ski slopes Andorra now competes on level terms with other European ski resorts. But unless Europe's weather returns to the familiar pattern of recent decades, all the investment Andorra has made in ski tourism could be for nothing.

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