Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Dozen Ski Areas Still Open In Northern Hemisphere as More Open In The Southern

Skiinfo reports that although it may be approaching midsummer, more ski areas have actually opened for snow sports in the past week than closed, and the number of countries offering snow sports has also increased, with Australia and South Africa beginning their 2009 season. France and Canada will re-open for summer skiing in the next few weeks taking the number of countries with ski areas open back in to double figures! However after last week’s new snow in Austria and Norway, no fresh snow has been reported in the northern hemisphere in the past seven days.
In Austria three glacier ski areas are currently open at Dachstein, Kaunertal and Tux and the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier re-opens on the 10th. Tux has the largest ski area with a 325cm (11 foot) base and 23km (14 miles) served by 7 lifts with a 690m vertical.
In Switzerland only Zermatt is open with Saas Fee due to re-open shortly and reporting a 370cm (over 12 foot) snow base waiting on the glacier.
France re-opens for snow sports on Saturday when the glacier ski area at Les 2 Alpes opens for summer skiing.
In Italy the Presena Glacier remains open with two red and one black run open and the Passo Stelvio glacier is also now open. There are unconfirmed reports that the Marmolada Glacier may re-opewn for summer skiing this season too.
In Scandinavia it’s the last few days of Snowsports at Finland’s Ruka, which was one of the first resorts to open in Europe last October and is clocking up a 200+ day season. One run is open until at least June 11th. Norway has the biggest choice in the region with three glacier areas to choose from at Stryn, Folgefonn and Galhoppigen, all with healthy snow bases.
In the US, with Arapahoe Basin in Colorado closing last Sunday (June 7th) and Snowbird deciding to close even earlier than that, having retreated from it's originally expected extended season date due to warm weather, only Mammoth in California and Timberline in Oregon remain open. For Mammoth this is probably the last week of the season, although it may still remain open after the scheduled closing date of this Sunday, June 14th. The resort currently has a base of 60-120cm (2-4 feet). "There is only a week left to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in Mammoth for the season so now is the time to head up. Mammoth Mountain is currently operating chairs from 7:30am to 1:00pm daily. The 8am temp at Main Lodge this morning was 48 degrees with light winds. Up at the summit, the 8am temp was 36 degrees with light winds. As of 8am, Broadway Express, Face Lift Express and Chair 23 are running out of Main Lodge", said a resort statement on Monday. Snowbird released a statement last week saying they wouldn't open last weekend as they'd hoped,"Due to recent warm temperatures, rain and rapid snowpack melting in the past week, Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort announced today that they are closed for the 2008/09 season, and will not be reopening this weekend as previously planned". Snowcat operators had worked on some areas of Little Cloud that had very little snow, large rocks and, in one case, a small river but unfortunately, they were not able to ensure enough coverage for safe, skiable terrain. The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort received 621 inches of snowfall this season and offered skiing and riding for 194 days, the longest in Utah. "Despite our plans and the hard work of our snowcat operators, we won't be able to offer any more skiing and riding this spring. The recent rain and warm temperatures have dropped the snowpack more than we expected", said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. Timberline in Oregon will once again be North America's main summer ski capital after Mammoth closes. North of the border there are no ski areas currently open although glacier skiing will resume at Whistler Blackcomb in two weeks, weather permitting.
In the southern hemisphere Australia’s major ski areas opened with scant snow cover on Saturday, June 6th – the traditional opening weekend. After the unexpected large pre-season snowfalls a month ago, temperatures had risen and the snow melted, leaving limited machine made snow enough for snowball fights and snowman building at most areas and a nursery slope at Perisher. However the situation improved through the weekend as temperatures dropped below zero and fresh snowfall came in. 21cm (8.5 inches) of fresh snow settled in Perisher village on Sunday night (7 June) and across Perisher's four mountain areas, allowing top to bottom skiing and snowboarding on Front Valley on Monday. Light snow flurries began to settle in the resort throughout Sunday and as the mercury levels continued to drop overnight, Perisher's Mountain Operations Department fired up 95 snow guns across parts of Perisher Valley and Blue Cow Mountain adding to the growing base. This enabled the Village Eight Express, Australia's only 8-seat chairlift to make its season debut on Monday. "It has been a fantastic start to the season. We've had fresh snowfalls and guests have flocked to the resort in the thousands and we've sold hundreds of lesson and lift packages", commented Nathan Butterworth Perisher's Resort Services Manager. Other Australian ski areas have also reported fresh snow. Mt Buller reported 8cm (3.5 inches) falling overnight with the snow continuing to fall. It hopes to open its ski runs next weekend. Natural snowfalls are forecast to continue for the next few days (lowering to 800 metres on Wednesday 10 June). Mt Ruapehu became the latest New Zealand ski area to open two weeks early, when the first skiers hit the slopes there on Saturday as good weather followed heavy snowfall. The mountain contains two ski areas under joint ownership, Whakapapa and Turoa, it’s the earliest the latter has ever opened. Over in Queenstown, Coronet Peak (picture attached) also opened on June 6th following favourable cold weather and consistent snowfalls. Ski Area Manager Hamish McCrostie said, "We have a great upper mountain average snow base of 80cm and lower mountain average of 50cm and we’re expecting more snow later in the week. The mountain is covered, our crew are all on board and we’re absolutely ready to get into the 09 winter season". Refining and improving nature’s contribution, Coronet Peak’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system is more efficient this year with the addition of a new water reservoir and new pumps. "We have expanded our snowmaking capacity this year and also have two new groomers joining our modern fleet perfecting the slopes", Mr McCrostie added.
Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, South Africa’s Tiffindell resort is now open with a 5660cm (Two foot) base and a 75m long ski run to enjoy.
Resorts in South America are scheduled to open this weekend. Valle Nevado will open on Saturday 13th.