Geneva / Lausanne, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Snow began to make a serious appearance in the Swiss Alps and the Jura mountains over the weekend, leaving the first layers that are needed for a good skiing base. Jura skiers were already out Saturday and Sunday 20-21 November, at La Faucille. Cross-country skiers from the Lausanne area began training, while in Saas-Fee early season skiers have been having fun for a couple weeks.

GenevaLunch Friday 3 December begins its popular Friday winter weather and snow sports reports. Here’s a warm-up:

Geneva has a skiing first!

The Monts Jura will be hosting a women’s event, the FIS Coupe d’Europe de Ski Alpin Dames. This major event in the skiing calendar is coming to Geneva for the first time. The success of the Monts Jura resort in hosting the French championship competitions in 2009 and 2010 encouraged the European cup organizers to plan one stage of their competition there. The Swiss Ski Federation will be organizing Friday’s Super-Géant race and the French Ski Federation the Super-Combiné on Saturday in Crozet-Lélex, less than half an hour from the centre of Geneva.

Exceptionally, on Friday 11 February, skiers will be able to buy their day pass for 1€ at the Crozet lift. Pedestrians will be able to watch 140 world class skiers, travelling via Lélex on the Friday and the Saturday, also for 1€. Details on the Monts Jura web site.

Winter tires and chains reminder

Winter tires are not obligatory in Switzerland, but if you are in an accident and your summer tires or winter tires with worn treads are considered a factor, your insurance company and the judge might see fit to give you the bill.

France does not require them either, although some mountain districts do. Austria and Italy are the same. Winter tires are obligatory in Germany.

Make an appointment now, if you don’t yet have winter tires or want someone to change them for you, as garages get very busy with this work by the end of November.

Many garages will store  your other-season tires for CHF25-50. Check out the TCS (Touring Club Suisse) review of winter tires (Fre), for advice on what tires to buy. The automobile professionals’ association recommends that you check the tire pressure once a month during the winter, for safety but also economy: 0.5 bars too low and your petrol consumption goes up 3 percent.

Note that TCS offers courses on driving on ice and snow.

Weather forecasts, avalanche information, energy-independence at Monte Rosa

Winter weather information will be a bit more reliable this winter, with the first phase of SwissMetNet completed and the second well underway.

The 2005-2013 project to replace old weather system tools is led by MeteoSwiss, the national weather service, and it involves several partners. The first phase involved “installing devices and burying about 15,000 m of cable to allow 1,100 sensors to transfer thousands of parameters to the central database every 10 minutes”, the group says in its November newsletter. “MeteoSwiss now has a modern, reliable and highly precise measurement network under constant surveillance, allowing us to provide our internal and external clients with meteorological data with the required accuracy and availability.”

MeteoSwiss, working with the ETHZ (Zurich polytechnic), has completed its first weather station designed to be energy self-reliant, at Monte Rosa, to “guarantee energy independence in order to ensure maximum availability of data”. Frost and snow settle on the measuring instruments and at the altitude of high Alpine peaks, can stop them from operating properly.

“They must therefore be ventilated and heated, a process that requires a large amount of energy. This energy must be stored at the station and be available at any time (especially during winter). For this reason, three solar cells of the most recent generation, with a power rating of 240 watts and a yield of about 15 percent, were installed in a vertical position to avoid snow accumulation. The 2008/2009  winter was a test phase to evaluate the chosen components and configuration of the station’s energy supply. With sun exposure of less than 90 minutes a day (value for the months of December and January), the sensors proved resistant to frost and so the station was able to remain operational.”

GenevaLunch carries, at the top of each page, daily and five-day weather forecasts from MeteoSwiss, as well as snow bulletins on Fridays starting 3 December.

Off-piste skiers are alerted to avalanche dangers as part of the winter sports reports. These are provided by WSL, the national snow and avalanche organization, whose snowfall bulletins are usually the most reliable for Switzerland.

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