Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Europe’s Snowfall Stalls For Spring After Six Months

Skiinfo reports that with the end of the season finally arriving in France a week ago and at Sierra Nevada in Spain last weekend, the only other skiing in Europe is in Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia or indoors in the continent’s 30+ indoor snow centres. In North America there are still five ski centres open and in the southern hemisphere the first ski resorts will open for the 2009 winter next week. There has been no sizable fresh snowfalls reported at any of the open ski areas for the first week since early November. Altogether less than 30 outdoor snow ski areas are open anywhere in the world at present – one of the quietest weeks of the year.
Austria continues to have the most ski areas open in Europe. There’s been little or no fresh snow this week, but the glaciers have huge snow bases so that’s not a problem. Conditions are typical for Spring skiing with overnight freezing followed by thawing from lunchtime, so morning conditions are generally best. The Kaunertal glacier has had nearly 10 metres (33 feet) of snow this winter and currently has 155cm (over 5 feet) lying on the upper slopes with five lifts accessing the slopes. On the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun there’s 353cm (12 feet) of snow to enjoy. The Stubai and Tux glaciers are also open with three to four metres of snow each.
Switzerland currently has skiing available at Engelberg on the Titlis glacier and on Europe’s highest ski slopes at Zermatt. There are 8km (5 miles) of runs available at Engelberg, where a 4m (13 foot) snow base is available with five lifts running. Zermatt has a similar amount of terrain open and also boasts more than four metres (13 feet) of snow lying – it will remain open year round.
In Italy only one ski area is currently open – the Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale, which reports over five metres (17 feet) of snow lying. Open terrain is only suited to intermediate and advanced level skiers and riders with two red and one black run open, the longest the 1.7km long Paradiso trail, the steepest the 1km long Sinistra. The ski area will be joined at the end of next week by the Passo Stelvio Glacier which re-opens on May 30th.
In Scandinavia there are ski areas open in Finland, Norway and Sweden. In Finland, Ruka’s seven month ski season continues with the 550m long Saarua number 12 slope open until June 13th. Over the border in Sweden, Riksgransen in the Arctic Circle is just getting in to its swing, with skiing under the midnight sun thanks to 24 hour daylight. Norway’s three summer glacier ski areas are all open. Folgefonn has the biggest snow base with 450cm (15 feet) lying, The Galdhøpiggen and Stryn glaciers are also now open.
Across the Atlantic in North America, Alberta’s final snow sports for the season ended last weekend when Sunshine’s long season came to an end. So the only remaining open ski area in the country is Whistler Blackcomb, with skiing on the Blackcomb Glacier. There’s been no new snow here in the past week but the resort is reporting a 169cm (just under six feet) base with recommended runs Upper and Lower Zig Zag. South of the border in the US, four ski areas remain open following the closure for the season of Mt Bachelor in Oregon after its last ski day at the weekend. On the upside however, Snowbird in Utah has announced an extended ski season. In Colorado Arapahoe Basin has about a dozen runs open with a mid mountain snow base of 115cm (46 inches). Timberline in Oregon, which is open almost year round, closing only for a few weeks in September, has a 480cm (16 foot) base. Mammoth Mountain (picture attached) in California’s famed Spring Super Duper Pipe opened on Monday, May 18th. Located above McCoy Station at an elevation of 10,000 feet, the new halfpipe boasts 22-foot tall walls and measures 400+ feet in length. Mammoth currently has terrain parks open on Forest Trail and Unbound Main, and a selection of jumps and rails will soon be added to the new spring park to complement the massive halfpipe ensuring that Mammoth will have a terrain park open until the last day of the season. With a base depth of 120-240cm (4-8 feet) of snow near Main Lodge (8,900ft) and 4.5 – 4.5m (14-18) feet of snow at the summit (11,053ft), Mammoth’s spring skiing conditions are in full effect. Thanks to nearly 13m (40 feet) of snowfall throughout the 2008/09 winter season, Mammoth Mountain has extended its winter operations until at least June 14, and possibly later.
The southern hemisphere’s ski season is still due to kick off a fortnight ahead of schedule at Mt Hutt in New Zealand next week on Saturday 30 May (conditions permitting). The centre has received around two metres (seven feet) of fresh snow this month.