The snowiest village on earth

The debate rages over the best skiing, the toughest off-piste or the hardest apres ski in the Alps.

But there is one statistic that can be left to the meteorologists to settle an argument - that of the snowiest part of the Alps. Whether you are a powder-hound, an intermediate looking for fresh, soft corduroy or a non-skier seeking snow drenched winter walks - snow matters. Avalanches and road closures aside, generally speaking the more and the more frequent, the better. North America takes snow depth to the extreme with charts and claims that make your head spin and for those not occupying top spot the debate turns to the water content in a snow flake and how oceanicity and air flows can seriously impact on the quality of the snow. European resort marketers tend to make less of the snow depth and focus on the quality of hotels, the history of mountain huts, piste kilometres and top heights.

Go to Damuls however in the Bregenzerwald region of Austria and the ski buses that ply the roads of this small, western resort are daubed with the claim 'das schneereichste Dorf der Welt' (the snowiest village on earth). This refers to a 2006 report that compared the annual snowfall accumulations of (inhabited) villages throughout the world. The study also looked at the ski areas across the Alps and compared accumulated snowfall records from within the ski area (so above the resorts). Damuls have certainly run with this figure and happily share the results with anyone within eyeshot of their piste maps, ski buses or website. More impressively for skiers and snowboarders, the nearby ski area of Warth that lies just north of Lech am Arlberg has been rated by the same study as the snowiest ski area in the Alps. These 2 locations, whilst well off the radar of most skiers and snowboarders, are very much in the cross-hairs of approaching snow systems that approach from the North West - the Bregenzerwald area represents the first natural barrier to frigid and snow laden clouds that cross the region from eastern Switzerland and southern Germany. As the systems cross the region, they 'jack-up' on the far north western peaks of the Austrian Alps and deposit record breaking amounts of snow on this region.

Statistically the 2nd highest snowfall accumulation area in the Alps is just south of Warth, the ski area of Zurs am Arlberg, the neighbour of the world famous ski holiday resort of Lech am Arlberg. Both St Anton am Arlberg and Stuben am Arlberg both benefit greatly from their proximity to this snow triangle that occupies the far north western reaches of the Austrian Alps. Braunwald just south east of Flims / Laax in Switzerland splits up the Austrian resorts at the top of the pile, coming in with the 3rd highest snow accumulation in the Alps. Obertauern, to the south of Schladming is reputed to be the 4th snowiest ski area in the Alps (and certainly one of the most under-rated for apres ski - this place is pumping in the winter). Avoriaz in the French Alps offers the best snow record in France and the 5th best in the Alps. Unsurprisingly Lech am Arlberg, located directly between Warth (#1) and Zurs am Arlberg (#2) also gets its fair share of snow, rated as the 6th snowiest ski area in the Alps. So if you need snow then chances are it is going to be on offer in the far West of Austria in the Bregenzerwald and Arlberg regions. And if it isn't snowing in this region during a visit then just cast an eye to the resort roofs to see building-crushing depths of accumulated snow.

One thing to keep in mind is that a strong likelihood of fresh snow will likely be matched by the inability to see your ski tips or what is up or down and certainly limit the shots you take home of the Matterhorn. Then again it can happen that you can wake to blue, frigid skies and 30cm of untracked snow!

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