Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August Snow in Northern And Southern Hemispheres

Skiinfo reports that there has been fresh snow in Northern and Southern hemispheres this week as the Alberta Rockies got a healthy August snowfall, and it’s now only 10 weeks until the first Canadian resorts will be opening for the 2010 Olympic Winter. South of the equator it’s Australia that has the most fresh snow to shout about in the past 48 hours.
In Europe we’re in to the last week of the summer ski season at France’s two open glacier ski areas – Tignes and Les 2 Alpes, both due to close this weekend. Tignes has taken the opportunity to re-measure the depth of snow on the Grand Motte glacier which it has been reporting at 1.5m (five feet) all summer, and has found the depth is 10cm (four inches), about the same figure as Les 2 Alpes where the base depth had dropped more gradually over the past few months.
Throughout Europe the warm August has taken its toll on the snow depths on the continent’s open glacier ski areas, and Austria has dropped from four areas open to two in the past week with the Dachstein (near Schladming) and Kitzsteinhorn (above Kaprun) glaciers now closed until fresh snow arrives. The Molltal and Tux glaciers remain open however, with sunny weather predicted for at least the rest of the week. At Tux, the glacier is holding steady with 165cm (5.5 feet) of snow, but the amount of runs open has been cut by more than a third to 15km (nine miles) with nine lifts running. Skiing at Molltal is also limited, down to 3km (about two miles) with a 170cm (5.6 feet) base, and temperatures on the glacier reported to be hitting a seriously melting 8 Celcius.
In Switzerland the neighbouring high-altitude, car free, resorts of Saas Fee and Zermatt are both open with about a metre of snow (over three feet) on each of their glaciers. Saas Fee has the smaller area open, with just three runs to choose from, but the resort’s summer terrain park and half pipe are still open.
In Italy there are still three ski areas to choose from, which thanks to the two closures in Austria, means the country now has more ski areas open than any other in the northertn hemisphere. The choices are Cervinia – which has six ski slopes shared with Zermatt, Val Senales and Passo Stelvio.
In Scandinavia, two ski areas are still open in Norway. Folgefonn is reporting a metre (just over three feet) of snow. Both it and Galdhoppigen, Norway and Northern Europe’s highest mountain at 2,469m, have a single drag lift operating.
Across the Atlantic in Canada Banff National Park has been enjoying its first glimpse of winter2010 – in August, with a summer snowfall blanketing the mountains at the ski areas of Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Area (picture attached) and Sunshine Village. The announcement of tentative 2009 opening dates is adding to the excitement. Mt. Norquay is planning to kick off the season with a Halloween party on October 31st and will then open at weekends only through to Decemer 5th. Lake Louise Ski Area is scheduled to open on November 6, with preparations well underway to again host the first, and Canada’s only, stop on the World Cup circuit. The Men’s races will take place on November 28 to 29, and the Women’s races on December 4 to 6. Sunshine Village plans to open on November 11, with the newly-renovated Sunshine Mountain Lodge opening 30 new eco-luxurious rooms shortly after. The multimillion dollar wing replacement has not only added luxury to the Lodge, but also lowered the resort’s carbon footprint. "We’re very excited for the upcoming season", said Dan Markham, of Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine. "We’re hoping to yet again be the first resorts to open in Canada, with a great start to this Olympic season. We’ll be joining the world to enjoy the spirit and energy of the Games, cheering on our local athletes and celebrating our sport".
South of the border at Timberline in Oregon the slopes remain open for advanced skiers and boarders now, although the centre’s terrain park and pipe remain closed and the annual September shut down is drawing nearer. Snow depths are just below a metre (three feet) and the weather largely sunny.
In the southern hemisphere, Africa’s ski areas are still reporting low temperatures and good conditions. At Tiffindell in South Africa the resort reports 1.2km of piste open and a snow depth of 50cm (20 inches) with temperatures ranging between -2 and -7 Celcius. Afriski in Lesotho has not updated conditions since 15th August when it said it had a 1km slope open with a 40cm snow depth and temperatures below freezing, however the lack of an update for more than 10 days appears to indicate the centre may have closed for the season.
The end of the season seems much further off in South America, where the huge falls of last week have eased with skies and access roads cleared. Portillo in Chile is still reporting some of the biggest accumulations with season-to-date falls of more than 6.8m (23 feet) and snow lying at the top of the slope nearing 3m (10 feet). It reports receiving about a metre (over 3 feet) of new snow in the past 7 days, although this was mostly part of a larger fall of more than double that volume which ran through last week. Several other resorts in Chile have similar big snow bases, especially the 3 Valleys resorts around Valle Nevado close to capital Santiago. It’s a more mixed picture over the border in Argentina but the two largest resorts of Catedral and Las Leñas are both reporting healthy bases.
Back across the Pacific there’s been fresh snow in the past 48 hours in Australia. Perisher, the country’s largest resort, most recently reported 22cm (9 inches) of fresh dry flakes overnight with more at upper elevations. "There are plenty of wind blown stashes and powder pillows to be found across the resort ready for guests to carve up", said a resort spokesperson. Mt Buller has had fresh snow too, reporting 12cm (5 inches) of new snow and temperatures staying below zero to keep the snow in great shape.
In New Zealand the biggest international competition ever staged in the southern hemisphere is currently underway with snowboard superstars hitting the resort of Cardona’s Olympic halfpipe earlier today as the 100% Pure New Zealand Winter Games continued in extremely variable weather. The world’s best riders did not disappoint an expectant crowd, defying the conditions with some outstanding performances. In the women’s heat, the triple challenge of whiteout, snow and wind tested riders’ concentration and technique to the limit. World number one, Liu Jiayu from China led the way with a magnificent display in her first run which included 5-to-5 and 7-to-7 combos. A score of 45.0 reflected huge amplitude and incredibly smooth riding. "She jumps as big as the guys with great control. Everything was good", said Head Judge Ola Sundequist. Conditions stayed poor as the male riders completed their first run. Pre-event favourite Shaun White lived up to his billing with a smooth run through the snow including a switch frontside 10 and super-big amplitude. No one could touch White’s class even as blue skies returned and the flame-haired American’s chose not to appear for his second run.
Other resorts in New Zealand are currently reporting challenging conditions. Turoa has a 2.2m (7 foot) base but is closed today because of severe gales and rain. Mt Ruapehu neighbour Wakapapa, with a 1.8m (six foot) base, is also closed for the same reason.