Projections for the Ski Season 2011The end of 'La Niña' phenomenon foreshadows a much better ski season than that of 2010.
Although there are several hypotheses as to why tourism decreased in last year, businessmen blame the lack of snow as one of the main ones.
By Benjamín Blanco, La Tercera newspaper
The earthquake, an economic crisis, and the soccer world cup. There were many causes, but just one consequence: the amount of tourists sliding down the ski tracks in Santiago decreased dramatically over the last season, causing some hotels to lose up to 40% of their bookings last year.
Nevertheless, all symptoms suggest that, boosted by the good weather conditions expected, in 2011 this scenario will change, bringing much more snow to our mountain range. "The forecasts say that temperature and precipitation this year will be normal, and La Niña, which last year caused problems due to the decrease of rain and snow, will be gone", says La Parva's manager, Thomas Grob. "In 2010 we had less than 120.000 visitors, which is bad. People started saying that we would end the ski season in late August, and though it wasn't true, people stopped coming", he states.
Ricardo Margulis, manager of Valle Nevado, asserts that a good season goes hand in hand with good weather conditions. "A year with enough precipitation of snow and rain is notoriously good for us" he says. He affirms that the symptoms of recuperation are already perceivable, even though there is still time ahead of the ski season. "For this winter season we expect over 150.000 visitors between June and October. In 2010 the amount of visitors increased in 10% compared to 2009. This year we expect a similar increase".
From the sea to the mountain
Although La Niña phenomenon is originated in the Pacific Ocean, its consequences can be perceived in the heights of Los Andes. When the phenomenon occurs, the sea temperature decreases one degree, making the atmosphere colder. That small variation prevents the formation of snow and rain clouds. "Last year it didn't rain much, especially from June on. That was the month La Niña came in, with very stable conditions and high pressure systems that stayed during the second half of the year", says Juan Quintana, expert in Dirección Metereológica de Chile.
"For this season we expect a weakening of the phenomenon. It's been happening since March and we expect it to have disappeared by June. The second semester should have a normal range of precipitations", he adds. Both the extension of la Niña and its periodicity are variable.
Although Constanza Casanova, sales manager of Hotel Posada_Farellones, acknowledges that weather conditions cannot be accurately forecasted, according to her experience -she has spent 22 years working in Farellones- this year looks better than last year. The odd years are usually snowier that even years", she says.
In her opinion, the causes behind the decrease on the amount of visitors are others. "The earthquake and the world cup had a big impact. With the 2008 crisis, we lost the European and American tourists, so 80% of our visitors were Brazilian", she adds. "But in 2010 they stayed in their country watching football and thinking that Chile was in ruins", she says.
Casanova says that so far this year there has been an increase of 30% in the reservations in the hotel. Thomas Grob, projects an increase of a 15% in the visitors of La Parva. "Even though we are not a large scale center, we expect to receive 140.000 people, and we have seen interest on the tourist's side", he points out.
According to the numbers given by ski centers, 50% of the tourists visiting the snow in Santiago are foreigners. 70% of them are Brazilian, 20% come from North America (US and Canada), 5% from Argentina, and the remaining 5% from other countries.
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