Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quieter Snow Week For Europe, But it’s Dumping In Western North America

Skiinfo reports that after months of heavy snow in most parts of the skiing world this winter, the past week has been relatively quiet with many areas receiving a few centimetres of snow, but no dramatic new falls. The exception is North America’s West coast where many areas have received over a metre (three feet) of fresh powder.
Austria, where several villages were cut off by excess snow last week, has had a quieter seven days. There was still more new snow on Friday generating 35 powder alarms with up to 40cm (16 inches) reported but since then the snowfall has been a lot less dramatic and the avalanche risk has reduced to a level of 2-3 now. On the Planneralm (one of the ski resorts that was cut off a week ago) there are very good skiing conditions again with all lifts open and all slopes well-prepared. Austria can now start to capitalise on the heavy snowfall of last week now that the problems it caused have eased. Lisa-Maria Beck of Lech Zürs Tourismus told Skiinfo's Pascal Bovée, "We’ve had an increased number of overnight stays and arrivals compared to last season, which was already the best winter ever. We have had more guests from Germany, in parts due to a tv campaign we launched last November. We are very pleased by the current numbers. Of course there are still important months to come and what counts is the final result after the season. But we are very optimistic that this winter season will show no sign of recession". Skiinfo's Snowfinder snowfall projection service forecasts much more new snow for Lech Zürs up to Sunday.
The rate of snowfall has also slowed down in Switzerland where Zermatt received another 18cm (seven inches) of snow in the past week taking its European best snow depth of 715cm (24 feet) on its glacier. Davos also received more snow, adding 15cm (six inches) to its snow depth.
In Germany it’s the Zugspitzplatt near Garmisch that has the greatest snow depth with 385cm (13 feet), Nesselwang had the most snowfall in the past week, adding a foot (30cm) of new snow.
It’s a similar picture in France where it has been snowing a little in the North Alps and the Pyrenees, but not in the volumes previously reported. The temperatures are now falling after a spring weekend and Les 7 Laux has reported the most snow in the past week with 20cm (eight inches) of fresh cover.
In Italy there’s also been more fresh snow and challenging weather conditions, especially in the north. The forecast is for more snow from today onwards. As we go to press the first powder alarm of the day has been activated at the ski resort of Valmalenco where 20cm (eight inches) of snow has fallen this morning. It is also snowing across the country from Champorcher in the north (10cm/four inches) to Campo Felice-Rocca di Cambio near Rome in the south (5cm/two inches). The ski resort of Colere has the most snow with 600cm (20 feet) on upper slopes.
The Pyrenees still have the most snow in France with snow depths of up to 4.5m (15 feet). Andorra’s ski areas still have a healthy cover too, after small recent fresh falls topping up the deep snow depths.
In Spain after several sunny days, it is snowing once again. At Formigal the latest dumps, which are predicted to last all week, come on top of weeks of snowfall which have left the resort with depths of more than two metres (seven feet). Conditions are still good in all Spanish resorts and Sierra Nevada in the south leads the way with four metre (13 feet) snow depths on upper slopes. However the resort has been in the news for the wrong reasons this week after a quad chairlift tower collapse on Monday morning led to 23 skiers being injured. Experts are still trying to discover what caused the accident.
In Norway it is holiday time for the western part of the country which is especially good news for ski resorts in that region as they’ve had the most fresh snow in the past week, with several places receiving 30 - 80cm (12 – 32 inches) of new snow. More snow is expected at higher altitudes. The World Cup comes to Kvitfjell from 6-8th March with the disciplines of downhill and Super-G and the resort has received a lot of new snow this week. Fresh snow is often a greater challenge for resorts than too little snow but Ole Johan Bjørge who is leading the resort’s preparations for the World Cup is not worried. He reports they have managed to take away much of the fresh snow so the hard packed snow will ensure high speed racing conditions.
Many resorts in Sweden have reported 10- 22cm (4-9 inches) of new snow over the past few days, keeping snow conditions fresh. The leading resort of Åre is currently preparing to host the Alpine World Cup Finals which starts on March 11 with the downhill finals and continue to the Nations team final event on Sunday 15th.
In Eastern Europe, 160 Slovak ski resorts and 80 Czech ski resorts are currently operating with Strbske Pleso boasting the most snow in the region with 150cm (five feet). Most resorts are offering up to 50% discounts at present to try to encourage springtime business, in Jasna, the area is charging 13 Euros for a day ticket. Bansko continues to have the best snow conditions in Bulgaria with up to two metres (seven feet) of snow on upper slopes and top-to bottom skiing. IT, as well as the country’s other ski areas, have seen mixed conditions through the past week, which are set to continue with sunshine interspersed with cloud and snow flurries.
After the severe thaw in Scotland over the past fortnight decimated the superb snowfall of mid-February, fresh snow in the past 24 hours has dramatically improved conditions once again with most areas receiving at least six inches (215cm) of fresh snow.
In North America it’s the West Coast which is performing well for snowfall, whilst the West Coast is currently very cold again, helping to maintain snow depths and quality there. In the US a strong low pressure system has brought 120cm (four feet) of snow to Squaw Valley USA in 24 hours, and counting. The US National Weather Service is calling for another 12-18” tonight, another 2-4” tomorrow and snow in the forecast through to Friday March 6, making for epic ski conditions, and a perfect driving window for skiers and riders to make it to Squaw Valley to enjoy the fresh snow this weekend.