Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sun Shines On Deep Snow Accumulations In Europe, Fresh Snow In North America

Skiinfo reports that whilst resorts begin to close en masse as the late Easter finally approaches, and sunshine dominates in parts of Europe and North America, heavy snowfalls are still being reported in some areas and accumulated snow depths at others that remain open mean conditions are still very good for the time of year in many resorts.
In Austria, Germany and Switzerland there’s been little fresh snow, but thanks to the large accumulations of snow over the past five months, it means for excellent spring skiing at most resorts.
The Dachstein glacier has the most snow in Austria with 460cm (over 15 feet) whilst in Germany 15 ski resorts in the Alps still have snow depths of two metres (Seven feet) or more, let by the Zugspitz glacier near Garmisch with 410cm (Nearly 14 feet).
In Switzerland snowfall of up to 18cm (seven inches) has been reported by some resorts. Andermatt has the deepest snow in the country with 480cm (16 feet) on upper slopes, Zermatt – which remains open for winter sports all year - has 408cm (more than 13 feet) on upper slopes and Engelberg four metres (Over 13 feet). Saas Fee received 10cm (four inches) of fresh snow in the past week and currently has a 370cm (over 12 foot) base. Laax got another 15cm (six inches).
In Italy Jean Pierre Fosson, secretary-general of Italy’s Safe Mountain Foundation has reported that snowfall in parts of the Aosta Valley region this winter is more than 50% above the 77 year average of 419cm (14 feet) of Val Gressoney, with 646cm (over 21 feet) falling.
However in Place Moulin above Bionaz the snowfall was slightly below the 40 year average (1965-2005) 392cm (13 feet) with only 334cm (11 feet) falling and it was a similar picture in Valgrisenche with a 378cm (just under 13 foot) seasonal accumulation compared to a 419cm (14 foot) 1972-2005 historical average. In the past seven days snow fell at the weekend in the north-west area of Italy, particularly in the Piedmont region where 2006 Olympic venue Bardonecchia reported a metre (3.3 feet) of fresh snow and resorts in the on the giant via Lattea (Milky Way) pass including San Sicario, Claviere, Sauze d'Oulx and Sestriere reporting 70cm (2.3 feet) each. Sella Nevea has the greatest snow depth, still above six metres, with 610cm (20.3 feet). The glacier at Marmolada has 480cm (16 feet) and at Cervinia 370cm (Over 12 feet) lying.
In France the Easter holiday period has begun and although smaller ski areas have closed, the larger resorts will be open to the end of the month and in to the first few days of May. Although there have been warm temperatures in recent days, the Southern Alps received significant snowfall last Thursday with 50cm (20 inches) in Isola 2000 and 40cm (16 inches) in Montgenèvre. Isola 2000 has the greatest accumulation in France of the past week with 80cm (nearly three feet) of snow in the past week. France’s greatest snow depths are still in the Pyrenees with Gourette on 470cm (nearly 16 feet) and Cauterets only 10cm behind. In the Alps Chamonix has 395cm (over 13 feet) of snow.
In the Pyrenees it has been sunny in most resorts for the past week and, as with the Alps, most resorts have large snow accumulations of two to four metres on upper slopes to rely on through the last weeks of the season in Andorra, France and Spain.
The French Pyrenees reported fresh snow yesterday however with Luz Ardiden adding 20cm (eight inches) and Cauterets, already the second snowiest resort in the country, another 10cm (four inches).
In Scandinavia conditions are great for Easter weekend at most Swedish resorts. The weather forecast predicts sun and more sun. There´s no new snow to talk about, although some resorts have received a couple more centimetres in the past few days. The past week brought warm temperatures in almost the whole country except for the resorts far up north so the snow cover has decreased, but is still looking good. Björkliden up north has the most snow right now on its pistes with 106cm (3.5 feet) followed by Kåbdalis 105cm (3.5 feet) and Lofsdalen 95cm (Just over three feet). For off piste skiing, Storlien has the most snow out in the back country with 150cm (five feet) lying followed by Ramundberget with 122cm (just over four feet) and Kittelfjäll with 110cm (3.7 feet).
Eastern Europe has also been seeing the sunshine of the Eastern Alps with snow depths at Bansko in Bulgaria, which has some of the best snow in the region, dropping below four metres (13 feet) on upper slopes .
In Scotland the same wonderful sunny weather and warm spring temperatures is worse news for ski resorts with a major melt down of the remaining snow cover, meaning there’s no repeat so far of the excellent April 2008. Cairngorm and Nevis Range are currently scraping along with very little snow left, Glencoe hopes to keep opening at weekends.
In North America there has been heavy snow in recent weeks on the West of the continent, now followed by warm temperatures in many areas, bringing great Spring skiing conditions to Colorado, Utah, Alberta and British Columbia. On the East of the continent it has been warmer but temperatures are dipping again at some resorts in time for Easter. There were sunny skies again today at Whistler today, which has had 24cm (ten inches) of fresh snow in the last week and still has months of skiing ahead. Also in British Columbia, Fernie, which is open anoither fortnight, has reported adding another 170cm (nearly six feet) of snow during March with 50cm (20 inches) in the seven days up to the weekend. The ultimate big mountain experience is back at Sunshine Village near Banff in Alberta, Canada. Thanks to new snow The Wild West, Sunshine’s second extreme skiing terrain opened on Tuesday, following Friday’s opening of the world-famous Delirium Dive. In Colorado to the south the snow was heavier still during the same period with Steamboat reporting 62 inches (155cm) in the week and Copper Mountain 45 inches (112cm).
In Japan Niseko ski area has announced it will stay open in to May. Looking back on the season to date the Annupuri ski centre reached a snow depth of 4.5m (15 feet) at its peak with January and February once again the country’s peak powder months with over 5.2m (17 feet) of snow falling through the two months.
In the southern hemisphere cold temperatures and light snowfalls overnight and on and off today (Wednesday April 8) has delivered early snow to New Zealand’s premier ski areas Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt and The Remarkables. Canterbury’s Mt Hutt (picture attached) has received 20 cm of snow with some areas on the access road receiving over half a metre. Further south in Queenstown, The Remarkables has received 10 cm of snow. Ross Lawrence, The Remarkables Ski Area Manager, said the mountain had turned from green to white overnight with snow falling down to the 6km mark on the access road. "The mountain crew is buzzing with anticipation for the season ahead. It’s a fantastic early reminder for skiers and snowboarders to get their snow gear and passes sorted for when the season opens in early June", he said. Across the valley at Coronet Peak, 10 cm has fallen. Hamish McCrostie, Coronet Peak Ski Area Manager, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mr. Lawrence saying "that whilst snowfall at this time won’t stick around until winter it is certainly a timely reminder that winter is on its way. It also serves to reinforce the long range forecast of a longer, colder winter for the South Island this year".
Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are scheduled to open on Saturday 6 June and Saturday 20 June respectively. Mt Hutt is scheduled to open on Saturday 13 June.