Friday, January 2, 2009

Heavy Snow in Western North America and Record low temperatures in Switzerland

Skiinfo reports that after the huge snowfalls in the Alps and Pyrenees in November and December, conditions have eased a little but that smaller, but still significant, falls of snow have been reported across the continent in recent days.
For the biggest falls, the emphasis has shifted to Western North America where, after little snow prior to mid-November, huge falls are now being reported leading to excellent conditions, but also high avalanche risk with a dozen fatalities in recent weeks, most of them skiers who ventured off piste. British Columbia has been especially blessed with new powder. Red Mountain reported 120cm (four feet) of fresh snow falling over 72 hours prior to New Years day and is expecting another foot or two. A little to the south Jackson Hole in Wyoming was closed due to avalanche risk as a result of the huge falls there. Avalanches had caused one fatality and in a separate incident, damage to a mountain restaurant.
In Europe, Swiss resorts continue to offer excellent conditions with fresh falls topping up levels at Andermatt, Saas Fee and Zermatt, all with more than three metres (10 feet) of snow. The Eastern side of the country has reported record lows for this time of year hitting -27C in the past week.
Austria has seen modest falls of 5-10cm at resorts like St Anton and Schadming in the past week, with more snow falling there now. The Muolltal Glacier has the greatest snowdepth in the country with 330cm (11 feet), Obergurgl has 265cm (nearly nine feet).
In Italy the Piedmont area has been a major beneficiary in recent days with Limone receiving 30cm (a foot) of new snow earlier this week. Arabba Marmolada in the dolomites continues to top the country’s snow depth table with 480cm (16 feet) of snow on upper slopes.
In France the most snow has been falling on resorts in the south of the country with up to 80cm (32 inches) of new snow reported over seven days. Top snow depth in the country is report at Abriès (Three metres/10 feet) whilst Montgenèvre 250cm (over eight feet) has the leading snow cover of the major resorts.
In the Pyrenees powder conditions continue in the main resorts. On the French side Les Angles got the most fresh snow in the country over Christmas week with 70cm (28 inches) more powder. However the avalanche risk is high here too. There’s a holiday atmosphere in Spanish ski resorts where the holidays continue until January 6th. Baqueira Beret has the best snow depth with 225cm at the top of its runs. To the south Sierra Nevada now has three metres (10 feet) of snow on its upper slopes.
Conditions are also good in Scandinavia with most ski areas open and more snow expected this week. In Scotland there’s limited cover but Glenshee has managed to reopen, joining Cairngorm and The Lecht. Eastern Europe has had some snow with Bulgarian areas reporting 40-80cm, a great improvement following a lacklustre start.
Japan saw heavy snow with warm temperatures at leading resorts but conditions are reported to have improved there too with temperatures falling. Niseko reported a metre (40 inches) of fresh snow falling in the last 72 hours of 2008.