California Coast RV Road Trip

Most known for Hollywood celebrity sightings, California is also home to some of the most famous beaches and coastlines of the world. This is perfectly complemented by the seamless weather and temperature that lures in new residents and tourists every year. So if you are looking forward to enjoying the summer heat, regardless of the More »

Going to Orlando and its Parks

It’s time to make a journey and the destination this time is called Orlando, a space full of fun that attracts millions of people during the whole year due to it’s famous parks, places like Disney World, Universal Studio or the Cabo Discovery will keep you busy all day long. Start by looking for a More »

Helsinki City Guide

Helsinki, recently awarded as ‘City of Design’ by UNESCO, is the capital of Finland. Unlike the Nordic winter, the temperature of this city is quite livable, and life continues throughout the year. It has four seasons, and the temperatures vary from 32 degrees in the summer and about -20 degrees in the winter. With the More »

Tag Archives: activ travel

Swiss resorts in uphill battle over no snow, franc

Armed with snow canons and cut-price hotel deals some of Switzerland’s ski resorts, already beleaguered by the strong Swiss franc, are grappling with another obstacle — no snow.


    1. Image: Motorcycle illustration


      Thinking road trip? Tap into your wild side


      Traveling by motorcycle is as much fun as you can imagine. Renting one takes effort.


    2. Universities with the finest eats


    3. Smithsonian showcases ‘Jet as Art’


    4. Pairing fine wines with fine barbecue


    5. Booked for one night, but charged for two

A dry November has forced several ski resorts to push back the start of the season, the latest in a string of bad news for hoteliers who have struggled to fill beds as the soaring Swiss franc deters foreign holidaymakers.

Not to be disheartened, Davos-Klosters nestled in eastern Switzerland employed no less than 250 snow canons to get pistes ready for the season start — a week later than scheduled.

Some 3,000 winter sport enthusiasts trekked to the resort lying 1,560 meters (yards) above sea level last weekend to slide down the 6 km (3.728 miles) of pistes made from artificial snow, long white stretches on an otherwise brown and green landscape.

Despite the delayed start, Yves Bugmann, finance director of Davos-Klosters mountain railway, remained unperturbed for now.

“Financially, the losses so far are marginal and can be recouped through cost cuts,” he said. “Even so, a good start is the basis for a successful season.”

Tourism, which contributes some 5 percent to Swiss gross domestic product, has come under pressure due to the strong Swiss franc that rose by more than 20 percent against the euro earlier this year and flirted with parity in August — the height of the summer season.

Although the Swiss National Bank set a cap of 1.20 francs to the euro on September 6, many hoteliers still regard the currency as overvalued and say the tourist sector needs a good winter to stave off job cuts.

Veronique Kanel, spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism organization, said there was no cause for alarm yet.

“However, should this situation last until mid-December, the lack of snow coupled with the strong Swiss franc would be extremely worrying,” she said.

Switzerland had its last heavy snowfall on October 19, but the Federal Office for Meteorology is forecasting snow Friday evening, ending a five-week drought.

FRANC-FIGHTING MEASURES

Overnight stays from foreign visitors are forecast to drop 4.2 percent this winter, according to economic research institute BAKBASEL, with tourists from eastern Europe and the United States in particular seen shunning the Swiss Alps for cheaper destinations.

To lure price-conscious skiers and stop locals from straying to slopes over the border, Davos is offering free lift passes to those who book an overnight stay between now and Christmas.

This is just one initiative as part of the project ‘Franc-ly Switzerland’ run by the tourist board, which aims to sell the country, a favorite winter haunt of the rich and royalty, as an affordable destination.

Other measures include 10 percent off ski holidays, 2-for-1 lift passes, as well as discounted ski lessons and ski hire.

Hotel Grichting Badnerhof in Leukerbad in southwest Switzerland is offering guests an exchange rate of 1.40 francs to the euro, a discount of some 14 percent over Tuesday’s euro-Swiss exchange rate of 1.2289.

While this can help take up the slack during low-seasons, cutting prices is not a viable option in the long run, Kanel said. Still, some higher resorts blessed with snow have managed to make light of the situation.

Boasting snow-capped peaks, Saas Fee in southwestern Switzerland poked fun at snow-poorer resorts in a video showing winter sports fans attempting to ski and sledge and on grassy fields.

“We regret that snow enthusiasts are forced to carry out such questionable activities and invite you to enjoy the start of the winter season with us,” Saas Fee said in a mock news video.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Swiss resorts in uphill battle over no snow, franc

Armed with snow canons and cut-price hotel deals some of Switzerland’s ski resorts, already beleaguered by the strong Swiss franc, are grappling with another obstacle — no snow.


    1. Image: Motorcycle illustration


      Thinking road trip? Tap into your wild side


      Traveling by motorcycle is as much fun as you can imagine. Renting one takes effort.


    2. Universities with the finest eats


    3. Smithsonian showcases ‘Jet as Art’


    4. Pairing fine wines with fine barbecue


    5. Booked for one night, but charged for two

A dry November has forced several ski resorts to push back the start of the season, the latest in a string of bad news for hoteliers who have struggled to fill beds as the soaring Swiss franc deters foreign holidaymakers.

Not to be disheartened, Davos-Klosters nestled in eastern Switzerland employed no less than 250 snow canons to get pistes ready for the season start — a week later than scheduled.

Some 3,000 winter sport enthusiasts trekked to the resort lying 1,560 meters (yards) above sea level last weekend to slide down the 6 km (3.728 miles) of pistes made from artificial snow, long white stretches on an otherwise brown and green landscape.

Despite the delayed start, Yves Bugmann, finance director of Davos-Klosters mountain railway, remained unperturbed for now.

“Financially, the losses so far are marginal and can be recouped through cost cuts,” he said. “Even so, a good start is the basis for a successful season.”

Tourism, which contributes some 5 percent to Swiss gross domestic product, has come under pressure due to the strong Swiss franc that rose by more than 20 percent against the euro earlier this year and flirted with parity in August — the height of the summer season.

Although the Swiss National Bank set a cap of 1.20 francs to the euro on September 6, many hoteliers still regard the currency as overvalued and say the tourist sector needs a good winter to stave off job cuts.

Veronique Kanel, spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism organization, said there was no cause for alarm yet.

“However, should this situation last until mid-December, the lack of snow coupled with the strong Swiss franc would be extremely worrying,” she said.

Switzerland had its last heavy snowfall on October 19, but the Federal Office for Meteorology is forecasting snow Friday evening, ending a five-week drought.

FRANC-FIGHTING MEASURES

Overnight stays from foreign visitors are forecast to drop 4.2 percent this winter, according to economic research institute BAKBASEL, with tourists from eastern Europe and the United States in particular seen shunning the Swiss Alps for cheaper destinations.

To lure price-conscious skiers and stop locals from straying to slopes over the border, Davos is offering free lift passes to those who book an overnight stay between now and Christmas.

This is just one initiative as part of the project ‘Franc-ly Switzerland’ run by the tourist board, which aims to sell the country, a favorite winter haunt of the rich and royalty, as an affordable destination.

Other measures include 10 percent off ski holidays, 2-for-1 lift passes, as well as discounted ski lessons and ski hire.

Hotel Grichting Badnerhof in Leukerbad in southwest Switzerland is offering guests an exchange rate of 1.40 francs to the euro, a discount of some 14 percent over Tuesday’s euro-Swiss exchange rate of 1.2289.

While this can help take up the slack during low-seasons, cutting prices is not a viable option in the long run, Kanel said. Still, some higher resorts blessed with snow have managed to make light of the situation.

Boasting snow-capped peaks, Saas Fee in southwestern Switzerland poked fun at snow-poorer resorts in a video showing winter sports fans attempting to ski and sledge and on grassy fields.

“We regret that snow enthusiasts are forced to carry out such questionable activities and invite you to enjoy the start of the winter season with us,” Saas Fee said in a mock news video.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Swiss resorts in uphill battle over no snow, franc

Armed with snow canons and cut-price hotel deals some of Switzerland’s ski resorts, already beleaguered by the strong Swiss franc, are grappling with another obstacle — no snow.


    1. Image: Motorcycle illustration


      Thinking road trip? Tap into your wild side


      Traveling by motorcycle is as much fun as you can imagine. Renting one takes effort.


    2. Universities with the finest eats


    3. Smithsonian showcases ‘Jet as Art’


    4. Pairing fine wines with fine barbecue


    5. Booked for one night, but charged for two

A dry November has forced several ski resorts to push back the start of the season, the latest in a string of bad news for hoteliers who have struggled to fill beds as the soaring Swiss franc deters foreign holidaymakers.

Not to be disheartened, Davos-Klosters nestled in eastern Switzerland employed no less than 250 snow canons to get pistes ready for the season start — a week later than scheduled.

Some 3,000 winter sport enthusiasts trekked to the resort lying 1,560 meters (yards) above sea level last weekend to slide down the 6 km (3.728 miles) of pistes made from artificial snow, long white stretches on an otherwise brown and green landscape.

Despite the delayed start, Yves Bugmann, finance director of Davos-Klosters mountain railway, remained unperturbed for now.

“Financially, the losses so far are marginal and can be recouped through cost cuts,” he said. “Even so, a good start is the basis for a successful season.”

Tourism, which contributes some 5 percent to Swiss gross domestic product, has come under pressure due to the strong Swiss franc that rose by more than 20 percent against the euro earlier this year and flirted with parity in August — the height of the summer season.

Although the Swiss National Bank set a cap of 1.20 francs to the euro on September 6, many hoteliers still regard the currency as overvalued and say the tourist sector needs a good winter to stave off job cuts.

Veronique Kanel, spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism organization, said there was no cause for alarm yet.

“However, should this situation last until mid-December, the lack of snow coupled with the strong Swiss franc would be extremely worrying,” she said.

Switzerland had its last heavy snowfall on October 19, but the Federal Office for Meteorology is forecasting snow Friday evening, ending a five-week drought.

FRANC-FIGHTING MEASURES

Overnight stays from foreign visitors are forecast to drop 4.2 percent this winter, according to economic research institute BAKBASEL, with tourists from eastern Europe and the United States in particular seen shunning the Swiss Alps for cheaper destinations.

To lure price-conscious skiers and stop locals from straying to slopes over the border, Davos is offering free lift passes to those who book an overnight stay between now and Christmas.

This is just one initiative as part of the project ‘Franc-ly Switzerland’ run by the tourist board, which aims to sell the country, a favorite winter haunt of the rich and royalty, as an affordable destination.

Other measures include 10 percent off ski holidays, 2-for-1 lift passes, as well as discounted ski lessons and ski hire.

Hotel Grichting Badnerhof in Leukerbad in southwest Switzerland is offering guests an exchange rate of 1.40 francs to the euro, a discount of some 14 percent over Tuesday’s euro-Swiss exchange rate of 1.2289.

While this can help take up the slack during low-seasons, cutting prices is not a viable option in the long run, Kanel said. Still, some higher resorts blessed with snow have managed to make light of the situation.

Boasting snow-capped peaks, Saas Fee in southwestern Switzerland poked fun at snow-poorer resorts in a video showing winter sports fans attempting to ski and sledge and on grassy fields.

“We regret that snow enthusiasts are forced to carry out such questionable activities and invite you to enjoy the start of the winter season with us,” Saas Fee said in a mock news video.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

A hiker’s-eye view of Mammoth Cave

AP

A section called Broadway is one of the main passageways in Mammoth Cave, averaging 40 feet high and 60 feet wide for three miles.

Long shadows flickered before me as I walked through the dank, subterranean passages of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. During my recent two-hour Historic Tour, I crouched and twisted my way through the cramped alleys of Fat Man’s Misery, checked out a massive block of rock aptly dubbed Giant’s Coffin, and faced the gaping maw known as the Bottomless Pit.

With more than 365 miles of discovered passageways, Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest cave system, and geologists believe there could be hundreds of miles yet to discover. Compared with caves I’d visited previously, Mammoth felt a little different — and not just because of its size. “It feels like walking through a big salt mine,” said my travel companion after we’d hiked more than an hour without seeing a single stalactite or hearing the trickle of water seeping down the limestone walls.

But this is a good thing, our National Park Service guide told us, at least for the future longevity of the cave. Mammoth does have some water-carved formations such as stalagmites and stalactites, but much of the cave system is actually sheltered from water by a “roof” of sandstone, which keeps it dry and protected.

Mammoth may not have the exquisitely colored formations that draw visitors to other caves, but it does have a fascinating history. Back in the 1800′s, African-American slaves were among Mammoth’s first tour guides and explorers. (Visit the the National Park’s website to learn more.) I was particularly drawn to the story of Stephen Bishop, who began guiding visitors at age 17 and later was the first person to cross the Bottomless Pit and chart the previously undiscovered passageways beyond. After nearly two decades in the caves, Bishop was given his freedom — but he died the following year.

After you emerge, squinting, from the cool darkness underground, don’t forget to enjoy the other half of Mammoth’s ecosystem. Visitors can soak up some sun and fresh air on a network of wooded hiking trails.

More from IndependentTraveler.com

 

Parks in peril: budget impasse could take a major toll

Mark Crosse / Fresno Bee

For the second year in a row, America’s national parks — including Yosemite National Park, pictured — face an erosion of funding necessary to serve the public and protect park resources.

This weekend, the National Park Service (NPS) is waiving entrance fees at all parks that typically charge admission. According to a new report from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), however, those savings come at a time when the parks need all the financial help they can get.

Released on Thursday, “Made in America: Investing in National Parks for Our Heritage and Our Economy” highlights the ruinous effects federal budget cuts are having on the national park system. After a $140 million cut this year, park supporters are bracing for even deeper cuts due to the ongoing budget impasse in Washington.

“The big hammer that’s hanging over everyone is the super-committee on debt reduction,” said Craig Obey, NPCA’s senior vice president for government affairs. “If they don’t come up with $1.2 trillion in savings [over the next 10 years], then you’re looking at up to a 9 percent across-the-board cut. The results would be draconian.”

According to Obey, that would cut $230 million from the NPS budget, which totaled $2.75 billion in 2010, or 1/13th of 1 percent of the total federal budget that year. If implemented, that would likely lead to cutbacks in visitor center operations, the elimination of seasonal ranger positions and longer response times in emergency situations.

“We’re not saying they’ll all happen,” said Obey, “but when you’re looking at 9 percent cuts, that’s where you look.”

According to the report, here are a few examples of what that view might entail:

Blue Ridge Parkway: With 14 visitor centers but only 10 permanent interpretive rangers, this 469-mile scenic highway relies heavily on seasonal staffers for its campfire talks, guided hikes and historic craft demonstrations. A 5 percent budget cut, says NPCA, could wipe out that program and lead to closures or shorter hours at some visitor centers.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area: Already facing a maintenance backlog of $113 million, this 67,000-acre park unit incurred $7 million in damages from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Several roads and visitor facilities remain closed with insufficient funding available for repairs.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument: Built in 1952, the visitor center at this Montana monument is so small ranger-led programs are held outdoors and thousands of historical documents and artifacts are stored in a damp and cramped basement. With no funding to resolve the problem, the Park Service is currently in the process of moving the collection to a conservation center in Tucson, a major loss to future visitors.

Olympic National Park: In 2004, budget shortfalls led the park to cut seasonal employees from 130 to 25. According to NPCA, flat or decreased funding could lead to similar cutbacks, at a time when the park sees more than 3 million recreational visits a year. 

Petersburg National Battlefield: As the site of a battle that helped end the Civil War, this Virginia battlefield is often targeted by relic hunters. Yet constrained budgets mean that one of four law enforcement positions, along with three of 12 maintenance positions and one of 10 interpretive positions, are subject to furloughs of up to six months.

For Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports, cutting the parks’ budget is not just bad for visitors but shortsighted as well, as the system’s benefits extend beyond individual parks’ borders.

“They’re also a critical part of the outdoor recreation industry which annually contributes $730 billion to the American economy and supports 6.5 million jobs,” he told msnbc.com. The parks also support another 267,000 private-sector jobs and generate an additional $13 billion in economic activity in local communities, according to NPCA.

Given the above, park supporters are doubly worried. If the super-committee fails to reach agreement, the NPS will face severe cuts. But even if they succeed, ongoing underfunding will continue to take its toll.

“Given the federal budget situation, we don’t expect park budgets to be adequately restored in the near-term,” said Obey. “But we are asking Washington to please not make matters worse, either through death by a thousand cuts over a few years or through a draconian, across-the-board cut.”

More stories you might like:

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.