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After Christmas and New Year’s, the real holidays are supposed to begin for skiers and snowboarders.

But so far, this winter has been a real bummer.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Alisa Enright of Stuttgart, Germany. “Quite the challenge, actually, particularly because last year was so good.

“I’m definitely praying to the snow gods. The snow gods need to come around.”

Ski conditions in the Alps are the worst in recent memory. A ski race in France scheduled for later this month was canceled, and another in Kitzbuehl, Austria, is threatened.

There is snow to be found on the higher glaciers, such as the Zugspitze in Garmisch, Germany. But at many locations, the runs down the hills and into valleys are brown, not white.

“The Zugspitze is good; there’s only one lift there that’s not open,” said Leigh Plowman, recreation director at the Army-owned Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. “[Wednesday] was a powder day up there.

“The lower areas are definitely much more of a challenge. There’s only one valley run open (the Kandahar, where Garmisch’s annual ski race is held in February). It’s skiable, but it’s not great.”

Conditions can change in a hurry, he said. One favorable weather front can turn conditions from brown to white.

“Last Thanksgiving (2005) there was no skiing, and four days later there was skiing everywhere,” Plowman said. “It can do the same thing now.”

The outdoor recreation office for Army Garrison Stuttgart has canceled two ski trips. A third to Arlberg, Austria, was taken as scheduled last weekend.

“The trip was almost full, but we had four cancellations the day of,” said Kurt Hahn, Stuttgart’s outdoor recreation director. “People looked at the Web site and saw the skiing was terrible. It wasn’t great, but the staff said the snow was OK.”

Hahn said he has more than 500 sets of equipment, and two-thirds of them are still in his shop. Usually by January, the racks are nearly empty.

“A lot of people are waiting for the first good snow before they come in and get their equipment,” Hahn said.

In Italy, Americans have to head north to go skiing, but sometimes they don’t.

“We canceled a reservation [in Garmisch] for this upcoming weekend,” said Army Capt. Elizabeth Anderson of Vicenza, Italy.

Kobie Johnson, of Vicenza’s outdoor recreation office, said that the manmade snow near his location has been melting in the afternoon, making conditions icy and, sometimes, rocky.

Johnson urged his soldiers to rent equipment at the recreation office, as well as buy a $5 waiver against damage.

“These boards and skis are coming back all scratched up with chunks taken out of them,” Johnson said. “Everything is great until the afternoon; that’s when things get bad.”

“We suggest they rent through us, so they save their equipment from any damage. We don’t want them to tear up a $500 board. That’s what we’re here for.”

Birgit Bliesener, a spokeswoman for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen tourist office, said that these are the worst conditions in her 10 years in town, and that skiers aren’t the only ones who suffer.

“There’s no ski rental, people don’t shop for winter clothes,” Bliesener said. “They do not sell skis, winter gear, shoes.”

Enright, a member of the Patch Ski Club in Stuttgart, said she’s ready to go skiing but will wait.

“It’s so expensive — transportation, lodging, lift tickets,” Enright said. “It’s such an expensive activity to make the financial commitment in these kinds of conditions. I’d have a hard time with that.”


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