Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fresh Snow Falls Bringing Powder Top Up To The Alps

Skiinfo reports that after a dry and sunny start to the year in large parts of Europe, large snowfalls have returned to the Alps, and continued in the Pyrenees. North America is experiencing unusually warm and unusually cold temperatures on west and east coasts respectively and there’s been heavy snow in Scandinavia, plus all five Scottish ski areas are open today for the first time this winter.
Heavy snow is dumping down in France, where Skiinfo released 43 powder alarms to subscribers on Tuesday – the free service that alerts Skiinfo users when fresh snow is falling to excess in their favourite resorts. It’s good news for resorts like Chamonix which has been blessed with a great base from pre-Christmas falls but had not seen any fresh powder for nearly three weeks since New Year. The biggest snowfalls have been in the North Alps (up to 50 cm/20 inches) at resorts including Châtel and Avoriaz. The latter is claiming the biggest accumulation in the country over the past week with 55cm, (nearly two feet) of fresh powder. The good snowfall has led to high visitation numbers according to Laurence Girard, manager of the Taninges - Praz de Lys - Sommand tourist office who told skiinfo.com, "This year we’re benefiting from an exceptional quality and quantity of snow and conditions have been perfect since the end of November. The resort has seen excellent visitor numbers, the best for December and January for a long time".
In Switzerland it’s resorts in the French-speaking west of the country that have seen the best of the new snow although there has been plenty of fresh across most of the nation with the Flims Laax Falera - Alpenarena reporting 28 cm (11 inches) of new snow. Anzère has claimed the most new powder with 55 cm (22 inches) whilst Les Crosets, lift-linked over the border to the afore-mentioned avoriaz on the Portes du Soleil pass, has 40cm (16 inches). Zermatt reports the most snow with 660cm (22 feet) on Europe’s highest ski slopes.
There were ten PowderAlarms in Austria on Tuesday with the Montafon Silvretta area posting the most fresh powder with 60cm (24 inches). Other beneficiaries include Solden with 36cm (14 inches) Lech Zürs with 20cm (eight inches) of new snow, St. Anton am Arlberg with 18cm (seven inches) and Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang both with 15cm (six inches). It’s still snowing in Austria and up to 40cm (16 inches) of fresh snow is expected through the current 24 hours.
Although it has warmed up a little recently, Germany to the north is reporting its coldest January to date for 22 years with average temperatures of minus 5.3 Celcius. Rolf Köberle of Kleinwalsertal Tourismus said, "Although there has been a lot of sunshine during the past few weeks, we’ve had the best conditions for winter sports. Last night the snow started falling again making the valley a dreamlike winter scene and bringing up to 35cm (14 inches) of fresh snow".
Italy has also had some healthy snowfall, especially in the Alps, with Skiinfo.com issuing dozens of powder alarms for the country. Passo Rolle and San Martino Di Castrozza both reported 50cm (20 inches) of new snow yesterday with Aprica , Bardonecchia and Livigno also adding more than a foot (30cm) to their bases. Arabba still has the most snow in the country with 480cm (16 feet) on upper slopes. The FIS cancelled training in Cortina D’Ampezzo for world cup racing later this week due to the heavy snow, they hope that training will be possible tomorrow and that the races will go ahead as planned.
The extreme conditions have led to more deaths in Europe with four Italian climbers dieing on the French side of Mont Blanc following a thousand metre fall, they were the latest to die after four other climbers died in two separate incidents at Chamonix the previous week. A young woman died in Val d’Isere after falling in to the resort’s river after getting dis-oriented and in Spain a 24 year old man died in an avalanche whilst snow shoeing in mountains close to Madrid, the first avalanche death ever recorded in the area.
It’s still snowing in the Pyrenees continuing the great season for Andorra, Spain and the French Pyrenean ski areas. Baqueira Beret (Attached picture) on the Spanish side which has some of the greatest snow depths in the region (225cm/7.5 feet) reported another 20cm (eight inches) of snow yesterday. Sierra Nevada has Spain’s greatest snow depth with 350cm (nearly 12 feet).
In Eastern Europe conditions are continuing to look up with Bansko announced as the replacement venue for the cancelled World Cup races from St Moritz. Snow conditions are reported to still be good in the Czech and Slovak Republics despite warmer weather bringing rain to lower slopes (Snow on the higher ones) with more than 230 ski areas operating across the two countries. Maximum snowfall has been 10cm (four inches) over the past week with the deepest snow at Chopok in the Low Tatras in Slovakia (180cm/six feet). A long Polish holiday period has started which the two countries hope will boost business which was slow in January.
In Scandinavia there have been huge snow falls in the eastern and southern part of Norway this week, resulting in over 20 powder alarms in the last two days. It has been snowing a lot in the country’s capital Oslo the last two days bringing a snow depth of 40cm (16 inches) to the city’s streets,very good news for ski resorts close to the city. In Sweden after a really warm period there has been more snow, with up to 19cm (eight inches) reported snowfall in the last days in 15 resorts across the country with the most snow in Tandådalen and in Kittelfjäll with 15cm (six inches). The forecast for the weekend promises even more snow so good powder conditions for the weekend.
To the west all five Scottish ski centres are open as heavy snow in Western Scotland allowed the two remaining centres yet to open for 2008-9 – Glencoe and Nevis Range – to open for the first time. A glencoe spokesman said, "Heavy snow over the last couple of days has improved the overall situation on the mountain. All runs are now complete although some are narrow in places".
In North America very low temperatures across the east have been the norm, witnessed by all the warm winter clothing at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Further north that meant that temperatures hit -40F below in Maine, and in Ohio -27F was reported to be the lowest recorded temperature for more than 35 years. At Bolton Valley ski area in Vermont the lifts were closed on Friday evening for fear skiers would freeze if there was malfunction.
To the north Canada’s snow season continues to be largely good with Banff reporting another 30cm (12 inches) fell in the past week taking depths well above 180cm (six feet). This marks something of a dividing line as Western North America has been experiencing very warm "Spring like" conditions with temperatures as high as +10C on the slopes in California and British Columbia. Heavy snow over the past months means this isn’t a complete disaster, yet, but a drop in temperature soon would be welcome.