Thursday, February 5, 2009

Conditions Still Excellent Across Europe with Season Nears Halfway Point

Skiinfo reports that across Europe many of the leading resorts are sitting on bases of two to three metres (7-10 feet) following spectacular snowfalls in the last six weeks of 2008 and more sporadic but still generally healthy falls during January, with clear sunny periods in between. In short it has been one of the best snow seasons for many years for most resorts and despite media gloom and doom reporting on the economy, many ski resorts are reporting business is actually up, in good part thanks to the great snow. The cover is such that even if no more snow falls for the rest of the season (extremely unlikely), most now have plenty to see them through to the end in April or May.
In North America it is a more mixed picture with west coast resorts having little snow at the start of the season followed by huge downfalls, but then warm temperatures and a thaw in January. The east coast has had better conditions and good snowfalls with low temperatures for much of the winter to date. These conditions have extended further south than usual giving an above average season to date for borderline ski areas in southern states like Tennessee.
Most of the world’s snow fans have their eyes on TV screens where the camera are pointing at France this week for the World Alpine Skiing Championships underway at Val d'isere. There has been limited fresh snow in the country over the past week with a dusting in the Alps at the weekend, the most in the south with resorts Val d'Allos, Auron and Isola 2000 each reporting 20cm (eight inches) in the past week. Much larger falls of up to 60cm (two feet) are expected in the next week on the main Alpine resorts, most of which currently have upper slope depths of two-three metres (7 – 10 feet).
On Monday, February 2nd, unusually heavy snowfalls, typically 15cm (six Inches) affected the north half of France as well as crossing the channel to South Eastern England. The snow touched both London and Paris.
In Austria more than 20 ski areas are now reporting more than two metres of snow on their upper slopes. "Slope conditions in many of the big resorts are reported to be very good, with skiers lucky enough to be in the Arlberg, Axamer Lizum, Hochzillertal, Ischgl, Kitzbühel, Silvretta Nova, SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser (picture attached), Sillian and the Zillertal Arena amongst those benefiting. A drop of temperature and more fresh snow is expected for the weekend", says Pascal Bovée who reports on much of the German-speaking parts of the Alps for Skiinfo. Nassfeld received a huge fall of 60cm (two feet) yesterday taking the week’s total to 95cm (Over three feet). All 110km of slopes are open but skiers should stay on marked slopes because the avalanche risk has risen significantly.
In Germany to the north the greatest snow depth is on the Zugspitz glacier by Garmisch Partenkirchen with two metres (Nearly seven feet) of snow. The country’s Sauerland (central uplands) has had some of the best conditions of the past week with up to 20cm (eight inches) of fresh powder.
In Switzerland Zermatt continues to have probably the greatest snow depth of any ski resort in Europe and possibly the world with 671cm (over 22 feet) on its glacier. They must have a very long stick to measure it. However several other resorts have bases above three metres now including Andermatt and Saas Fee. There’s been less snow in the past week although Andermatt had 30cm (a foot) more and both Saas Fee and Engadin/St. Moritz reported another 12cm (four inches) in total.
Italy’s Bardonecchia is hosting the first ever Snowboard FIS World Cup Slopestyle competition today and tomorrow (February 4th and 5th) plus another Halfpipe contest on February 6th and 7th. The Slopestyle course offers six features. Starting with a rail another Butter Box offers some time to slide before a kicker series of four jumps leads straight in the finish and is located just a little bit above the 2006 Olympic Halfpipe in Melezet. Resorts in the north of the country posted the most PowderAlarms on Skiinfo in the past seven days. San Martino Di Castrozza saw one of the bigger falls of 30cm (12 inches) whilst Alagna Valsesia on the west and Arabba Marmolada in the Dolomites both lead Italy’s greatest snow deoth table with 480cm (16 feet) of snow each on upper slopes.
In Spain all of the country’s 20 or so Pyrenean ski resorts have reached snow depths of more than two metres, as the country’s sensational winter 2008-9 continues in to a third month of regular powder snow. The ongoing falls are causing a lot of problems at airports and on the roads. Baqueira Beret reports the most snow with 275cm (nine feet) on upper slopes although Sierra Nevada to the south of the country has the greatest snow depth in Spain with 350cm (12 feet). Conditions also continue to be superb in neighbouring Andorra and on the French side of the mountains.
In Sweden Skiinfo's country manager Christer Hillörn reports that there have been no major snowfalls but very cold temperatures as low as - 25-30C. "The cold weather will continue this week but the heavy snowfall that hit England is coming in today and a second front on Friday. The biggest snowfalls are expected in the northern parts of Sweden. So we are looking forward to a good weekend with powder skiing in the north, but also with good conditions due to the cold weather at resorts elsewhere in Sweden too".
It’s very similar over the border in Norway, where 64 ski resorts expect to receive snow today after a clear, very cold spell. Skiinfo's Snowfinder predicts about 20cm (eight inches) as the maxiumum total snowfall for the next four days at these resorts.
Bulgaria has had some new snow continuing itys rather average season. Bansko has the best cover with 120cm (Four feet) of snow. 110 resorts are operating in Slovakia and 70 in the Czech Republic with a maximum snowfall of 20cm (eight inches) in Slovakia in the past week in the Slovak paradise and Small Fatra resorts. Discolunts of up to 50% are offered on some lift tickets.
Elsewhere in the continent all five ski areas in Scotland remain open with fresh snow falling currently falling and expecting to continue for the rest of this week. In the Netherlands January 2009 is officially the coldest month in 12 year, according to the KNMI (Royal Dutch Meteorological Instute) with the avarage temperature just 0.7 degrees against the avarage temperature for the month of 2.8 degrees Celsius. Unusually the south of the country was colder rather than the north and received the most snow.
North America. In Utah snow storms this week deposited another 120cm (four feet) at Snowbird lifting the resort’s January’s total to 2.6m (103 inches) giving a mid-mountain base of nearly two metres (95 inches). "This recent parade of storms has made for the best conditions of the season and prime powder skiing", said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. "As we head into the heavy snowfall months of February and March, the mountain is sure to only get better". In Canada Whistler has reported nearly 30cm (a foot) of new snow in the past 48 hours at mid-mountain (1650m) taking snowdepths there to nearly 150cm (five feet). On the east Mont Tremblant in Quebec received more than 20cm (eight inches) of new snow overnight, adding to the 3.3 metres (130) inches since the opening of the season.