Skiinfo reports that many of the world’s ski resorts have had a snowy start to the New Year with temperatures dropping again and fresh snow in Western North America – where recent accumulations have been greatest, as well as once again the Pyrenees, Scandinavia and parts of the Alps. Even Belgium, England and Holland have seen up to 12cm (four inches) of snow enabling ski centres to open, attracting large crowds.
Although it is too early to be sure, many resorts in Europe and some in North America have reported business up on last year, most putting the success down to the great snow conditions and in many cases a boom in bookings from their local market with people opting to spend their Christmas or New Year in the mountains of their own country rather than travelling far. Among the beneficiaries have been Big White and Red Mountain in British Columbia who both report business up, and the world’s largest ski resort operator, the French based Compagnie des Alpes, which reported sales up 2.5% on the same period last year. Other resorts in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have so far reported increased business.
Of course if any resorts have suffered a downturn they are less ken to get the news out quickly! Whether up or down over New Year, January will perhaps be the most challenging month of the season and many bargains are to be had as a result. Lynsey Devon of tour operator Inghams notes that a growing pattern over very late booking, during the week before departure, has become the norm now Christmas is behind us.
Switzerland continues to offer some of the world’s snowiest slopes with another 40cm 16 inches falling on Zermatt over the past seven days. Disentis has 330cm (11 feet) of snow on upper slopes, Saas Fee 291cm (Just under 10 feet) and Andermatt 280cm (over nine feet).
Austria has had the smallest snowfalls of the main Alpine nations in the past week with Wildschönau and Sölden reporting the most with 15-20cm (6-8 inches). Best bases continue to be on the glaciers with 330cm (11 feet) on the Mölltaler and 239cm (eight feet) above Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.
In France temperatures are low and snow is still falling in both the Alps and Pyrenees, if not with the abundance seen before the New Year. It is expected to stay cold all week. The biggest beneficiaries of the past week have included Alpe d'Huez with 70cm (28 inches) of new snow and Morzine with 45 cm (18 inches).
In Italy again there has not been a repeat of the huge falls a month ago, but snow is still falling at a more usual rate. The Northern Italian provinces of Piemonte, Lombardia, Trentino and also Emilia Romagna have seen the most snow. Courmayeur was amongst the biggest beneficiaries with 45cm (18 inches) more powder in the past week. Cervinia reported another 40cm (16 inches). Italy continues to have some of the greatest snow depths in the world at present with 480cm (16 feet) at Arabba Marmolada and 400cm (over 13 feet) at Alagna in Monterosa.
In Andorra and Spain powder conditions continue with new snow falling since Tuesday (6th). It is very cold in the country at the moment but that hasn’t dampened spirits following one of the best ever Christmas seasons in Spain with resorts releasing reports showing a rise in visitor numbers compared to previous seasons. Sierra Nevada in the south has the most snow with three metres (10 feet) of snow depth. In the Pyrenees Formigal leads the way with two metres (nearly seven feet) deep snow on upper slopes.
In Norway there have been heavy snowfalls over the past week in Western and Central Norway, 11 ski resorts have received more than 50cm of fresh snow, with Vassfjellet receiving the most with 102cm of new snow. Bjorli has the best snow depth in the country at present with 250cm (over eight feet) accumulated whilst Voss, in the Inghams brochure, has the third most with 160cm (over five feet).
The central parts of Sweden, including the country’s leading resort of Åre got 30cm of fresh snow over the past week. There were two small avalanches there at the weekend but no one was injured and no property damaged.
Although the snow in Northern Europe caused traffic problems in Belgium and Holland, three ski slopes in the southern Belgium Ardennes region have opened (Elsenborn, Mont Spinette and Baraque Michel) with more centres hoping to open later this week. In Holland in particular a long period of sub-zero temperatures has led to a rare treat – the chance for people to enjoy the favourite Dutch sport of ice skating on frozen ponds and canals. Hopes are high that for the first time in 12 years it will be possible for enthusiasts to complete the 200km (125 mile) long "Elfstedentocht" - a tour between eleven cities in the country’s Northern province of Friesland. The last time the ice was thick enough for an Elfstedentocht to be completed was the January 4th, 1997.
Over the border in Germany there were big snowfalls too, especially on January 5th in central uplands like the Sauerland up to 30cm (a foot) of new snow fell.
In Eastern Europe, which had a poor start to the season, conditions have continued to improve and snow depths in Bulgaria’s main resorts are up at 60 – 120cm (two-four feet).
In Scotland four of the five ski areas are open, although at Nevis Range is just operating the beginner’s artificial surface slope. 5cm, (two inches) of new snow overnight has improved things but not enough for slopes to open. Cairngorm has the most to offer with a 600m+ vertical although you need to pick your route carefully towards the bottom. Glenshee has benefitted from snow making in the low temperatures.
In North America the heaviest snow of the past week has been falling in the north west of the continent, particularly in British Columbia and in US states like Oregon and Wyoming where accumulations of up to a metre (more than three feet) have been reported as the very cold weather has ended and weather fronts have moved in from the ocean. On the East Coast itr has not been so good with a warm spell bringing rain, however temperatures in most resorts are now back to the winter norm.