Friday, December 19, 2008

Still More Heavy Snow In Europe, Fresh Snow In North America

It’s now ten weeks since the first heavy snowfalls were reported in the Alps and the snow is continuing to come down by the bucket load in many areas. http://www.skiinfo.com/ reports that apart from the duration of the snowfall obviously setting ski resorts up for a memorable season, what’s also unusual is that almost all of the world’s major ski regions have received well above average pre-season snowfall, usually one area will do better than another. However this time almost everywhere has above average snow.
France continues to receive heavy snowfalls in the Alps and Pyrenees with Skiinfo issuing powder alarms of up to 60cm (two feet) of new snow at some areas. Montgenèvre got another 40cm (16 inches) and Val d'Isère 20cm (eight inches) more on Tuesday alone. But all the snow means there is a high risk of avalanche everywhere. The greatest snow depths are reported at Valberg 260cm (8.7 feet) and Isola 2000 250cm (8.3 feet), but many resorts have base depths of more than two metres (6.7 feet), including Meribel, where the Freestyle World Cup is being staged today.
In Austria snow falls and snow depth are if anything, even greater than France. The Mölltal Glacier reports 310cm (over 10 feet) and Obergurgl 255cm (8.6 feet). Fresh snowfalls totaling up to 1.2m (four feet) have been reported at some Austrian resorts over the past week with Nassfeld Hermagor reporting 120cm of new snow, Bad Gastein 95cm (over three feet).
Snowfalls in Germany to the north have been more modest with Balderschwang receiving 20cm (eight inches) more last Friday, taking base depths to 100cm (40 inches) on upper slopes, one of the deepest in the country.
Switzerland has once again received big snowfalls in the past week with Zermatt, once again, one of the leading beneficiaries receiving yet another 85cm (nearly three feet) over the past seven days. Nearby Saas Fee got 65cm (26 inches) and St Moritz 50cm (20 inches) ahead of hosting the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Ladies Super Combined tomorrow 19 December, Downhill on Saturday 20 December, and Super G on Sunday 21 December. Disentis has the most snow with 350cm (nearly 12 feet) ion upper slopes. Saas Fee has 288cm (nearly 190 feet) and Zermatt 250cm (over eight feet).
To the south the snowfall that has brought parts of Italy to a standstill has not let up with the country’s north east getting the heaviest falls in the past week which has partially cut off some ski towns like La Thuile and Sauze d’Oulx. As a result Alagna in Monterosa has some of the greatest snow depths in the world at present with 420cm (14 feet) on upper slopes although Arabba in the dolomites leads the way with 480cm (16 feet). Many other resorts now have three metres plus (over ten feet) bases.
The huge snowfalls in the Pyrenees have perhaps been the biggest snow story of the past month, because conditions have been rather lackluster there in recent seasons. In Andorra virtually all runs are open and snow depths have reached 170cm (nearly six feet) in VallNord, with similar conditions in GrandValira, which reported another 15cm (six inches) of snow on Monday. It’s much the same on both the Spanish and French side of the chain with Spain’s Baqueria Beret reporting that the more than four metres of snow it has received in the past month is the most it has ever received this early in the season. It currently has 225cm (7.5 feet) on upper slopes. Many Spanish resorts have reached two metres (seven feet) of fresh powder snow depth.
In Norway there will be 50 ski resorts open this weekend and Skiinfo.no reports eight of them are expecting over 50cm (20 inches) of fresh snow over the next four days. XC skiing is fantastic too.
In North America the one area that had been having serious problems with lack of snow – the West Coast to the rest of the Rockies, has at last had some healthy falls in many areas with most resorts finally opening or able to open more terrain,
"A strong cold North Pacific winter storm brought snow at a rate of 1 inch (2.5cm) per hour, with snow fall totals ranging between 22 and 36 inches", Squaw Valley USA in California reported on Monday. "The US National Weather Service is calling for another 18-30 inches and continued snow showers are in the forecast through to Tuesday December 23rd".
Other parts of North America have been having more good snowfalls too. In Colorado Jen Brill of Silverton sent a picture of the ski area shuttle bus buried in snow (attached) and reported, "The total from the last seven days is 55 inches (nearly 1.4 metres) of new snow. It continues to snow hard today so we have not been able to get a depth from the upper mountain but it likely exceeds two feet (60cm) of new snow".
There’s been more snow in Canada too. Marmot Basin which was one of the first on the continent to open last month and has had consistently good snow since we received 55cm (22 inches) of new snow over the past week and a half and 20cm 9eight inches) of new snow last Friday alone.