Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fresh August Snow In The Alps

Skiinfo reports that as we enter August, 14 northern hemisphere snow centres remain open for summer skiing and boarding in six countries. It’s now sunny at most of the Alpine glacier resorts in Europe after a cloudy start to the week. Temperatures are reaching above zero even at 3,000m by late morning so conditions are best early on in the day at most centres.
Switzerland’s Saas Fee is one of two ski areas to claim fresh snow this week, reporting 4cm (Nearly two inches) of new snow on its glacier on Tuesday 4 August. There are four runs open and the resort’s snowpark and half pipe on a 1.8m (six foot) base. The other Swiss option is of course Zermatt, open 365 days a year, weather permitting with the highest lifts and runs in Europe, the very highest of which are usually only open in summer. There are half a dozren slopes open and a snow depth of 1.1m (nearly four feet)
Austria continues to have the most terrain open with four glaciers to choose from at the Kitzsteinhorn (above Kaprun), Dachstein near Schladming, Tux in the Ziller Valley and Molltal near Mallnitz and Flattach. The Kitzsteinhorn will stage its ‘Snow Climb’ mountain bike race this weekend, bikers will find about 196cm (6.5 feet) of snow waiting for them. Snow depth is almost identical at Tux, where seven lifts are operational, serving 23km (14 miles) of piste.
In Italy there are three areas open, Cervinia, sharing summer skiing with Zermatt as well as Passo Stelvio and Val Senales. Each has a snow depth of between 1 and 2 metres (3.3-6.6 feet).
In France, the two remaining glacier ski areas open for summer skiing. Les 2 Alpes and Tignes, will both close at the end of the month, in the case of Tignes only for a few weeks before re-opening from mid-September through to May. It currently reports glacier snow depths of 180cm (6 feet) while Les 2 Alpes only has a foot (30cm) although it is reporting 5cm (two inches) of new snow which fell on Sunday (2 August).
In Norway the Stryn glacier has closed, leaving two glacier ski areas open there too – Folgefonn and Galdhoppigen. Folgerfonn has the greater snow depth with three metres (ten feet) accumulated. Both centres aim to stay open to the start of November by which time the first of Scandinavia’s larger regular resorts should be opening for their long winter season at this northerly latitude.
Across the Atlantic only Timberline ski area is open, located on Mt Hood in Oregon, USA. There’s nearly four feet (1.1m) of snow lying and the weather is warm at around 70 Farenheit. The two chairlifts, freestyle terrain and superpipe are all open in the morning and early afternoon.
In the southern hemisphere conditions are still good at Tiffindell in South Africa. Snow depths are up to 75cm (2.5 feet) and 1.2km of slopes, the most so far this season, are open and temperatures are hovering just below zero. In neighbouring Lesotho, Afri-ski with it’s kilometre long slope is also open, although temperatures are a little higher.
In South America there’s a mixed picture with Valle Nevado in Chile reporting 2.6m (nearly nine feet) of snow so far this season with 70cm (2.3 feet) of snowe on the ground. At Portillo more than four metres of snow has fallen since the start of the season and snow depths are up to 1.8m (six feet). There’s been no snow in the past 24 hours buit Portillo reports 11cm (four inches) of new snow in the past week.
Argentina continues to have a rather average season with little fresh snow and 50cm (20 inches) of snow at the continent’s largest ski centre, Catedral. Las Lenas has a more impressive 125cm (four feet) of snow and expects heavy snow later this week.
New Zealand ski areas has received more fresh snow – good news of course for recreational skiers, but there have sadly been several avalanche deaths too amongst skiers heading off piste. At Mt Ruapehu, Turoa is reporting another 10cm (four inches) of snow in the past 24 hours, taking the snow depth past 2.1m (seven feet). Whakapapa has done even better with 18cm (7 inches) of new snow overnight leading to superb conditions. It has 185cm (6.2 feet) of snow lying on upper slopes. With the best snow conditions in years, Coronet Peak (picture attached) is about to become the hub of international race training in the Southern Hemisphere in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Coronet Peak has been the main Southern Hemisphere training centre for the US Alpine Ski Team for the past several years and there is excitement in the air as their teams arrive in the coming weeks. Richard Murphy, Head of Race and Events at Coronet Peak, said training camps such as those provided by Coronet Peak are crucial for these teams. "These are exciting times at Coronet Peak with the athletes arriving. The teams will first focus on technical adjustments then increase the volume and intensity of training", he said. "The combination of great natural snow this year and superb man-made snow from a new snowmaking system has made world class training conditions at The Peak". The US women’s team will include Linsey Vonn, 2009 Overall Alpine Ski Champion and 2009 Double World Champion from Val d’Isere. She will be accompanied by Olympic Gold Medalist Julia Mancuso from Torino. The US men’s team will be led by Ted Ligety, Combined Olympic Gold Medalist in Torino and Double Overall Giant Slalom World Champion. As well as the USA, Coronet Peak will also host Swedish, Swiss and Canadian Alpine Ski Teams with all eyes focused firmly on gold in Vancouver and Whistler.
Conditiions in Australia continue to be good, as with most ski areas reporting a few centimetres more snow in the past week, 8cm (3.5 inches) in the case of Perisher. Mt Buller, which hsas something of a Christmas theme going this week and 17 lifts open, reports Santa brought them 3cm (just over an inch) of new snow earlier yesterday.