Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ski Areas Battle On As Temperatures Warm Up

Skiinfo reports that most of the world’s open ski slopes are reporting sunny skies and snow-melting temperatures, the main exception being Australia and new Zealand where the snow continues to fall and world class pre-2010-Olympic competitions are underway or starting soon.
In the Europe Alps, Les 2 Alpes in France is struggling to remain open for the final few weeks of its 2009 summer season, due to end on the 29th of the month, despite receiving receiving 5cm (two inches) of new snow last week. Hot weather, even up at 3200m on the glacier, has brought base depths down to only 10cm (four inches) and the centre has had to close on several days this week, although it is reported to be open today. The other open French ski area is Tignes, which is still reporting its base depth at 1.8m (six feet) as it has done all summer, although it also has warm weather to contend with. It is due to remain open to 3sdt August then close for just a few weeks before re-opening in mid-September, when it will be the only French area open for several months.
It’s warm in Austria too where there are still four glacier ski areas open. The Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun is reporting a snow base of 132cm (4.5 feet) on the glacier. The centre has just announced a series of planned workshops, gear tests and festivities to mark the opening on winter 2009-10 in October and November, culminating with an "opening weekend" on November 7th and 8th. At the Molltal glacier the centre was already reporting temperatures at 4 degrees Celcius on the glacier at 8am, and although the snowpark is closed, 9km (six miles) of runs are open served by three lifts. The Dachstein glacier has two pistes open, along with 15km of cross country trails and a beginner’s terrain park. The Hintertux glacier continues to have one of the largest ski areas open in Europe at present with 23km (14 miles) of runs open and five lifts serving them, there’s a 165cm (5.5 foot) snow base.
In Switzerland three runs are open on the Saas Fee’s glacier which is served by the Metro Alpin underground funicular. The summer terrain park and half pipe are also available with a snow depth of about 160cm (5.3 feet). Zermatt, with the continent’s highest lifts is also operational as it tries to be every day of the year, with over a metre of snow (3.5 feet) on the glacier.
In Italy Cervinia, Val Senales and Passo Stelvio are open for summer skiing, with the same sunny conditions and temperatures 3 or 4 degrees above freezing during the daytime on the glaciers. Val Senales has the most snow with a 150cm (five foot) base but it’s now nearly four weeks since the last snow feel (15cm/6 inches on 18th July).
Norway still has two summer ski areas open, running a drag lift each. Folgefonn and Galdhøpiggen, the latter located on Scandinavia’s highest mountain, both report good snow conditions.
In North America, Timberline in Oregon remains the only open option with about a metre (3.3 feet) of snow lying. The Magic Mile and Palmer chairlifts are open from 7am to 1.30pm daily serving the Mile Canyon terrain park and the resort’s superpipe.
In Africa the temperature have swung back well above zero in the range of +3 – 9 degrees Celcius. However the established snow cover at Tiffindell is holding up well with 1.2km of slope covered 50cm (20 inches) deep. The slopes around the ski runs have returned to brown and green grass however after being white with natural snow cover for recent weeks. The resort’s ski season typically lasts to end August or early September. Temperatures are also a few degrees above zero at Afriski, Lesotho’s ski area, where the freezing point is now above the height of the ski runs, but it too remains open for the time being.
In South America, Chile continues to have the best of the snow. Portillo has some of the deepest snow on the continent and after another 10cm (four inches) of snow took seasonal accumulation past 4.1m (Nearly 14 feet) in the last week it reports conditions as ‘packed powder’. Base depths range from 1.2m (four feet) at the hotel to 1.55m (over five feet) on the mountain. La Parva is also reporting great snow conditions with base depths of up to 205cm (just under seven feet) while Valle Nevado says it has received 265cm (nine feet) of snow to date but that slope depths are around 60cm (two feet).
In Argentina, Las Lenas reports a base depth of between 90cm (three feet) at the base and 125cm (over four feet) at the summit of the slopes. All lifts and runs are open, as well as the resort’s terrain park. Elsewhere in the country the continent’s biggest resort, Catedral, reports a 90cm (three foot) base. Other Argentinian areas have more challenging conditions, for example Chapelco notes only 32cm (13 inches) on the mountain and no snow at the resort’s base.
Across the Pacific in Australia and New Zealand conditions remain very good at most areas. In Australia Perisher ski resort has thrown its weight behind Australia's Vancouver Winter Olympic campaign, building a replica of the key features of the snowboard-cross and ski-cross course that will be used in the 2010 Games. Snowboard-cross and ski-cross races are won, more often than not, by the racer who gets an edge out of the start gate and down the first section of the course. So the Perisher grooming fleet has sculpted a series of jumps and turns identical to the Cypress Mountain course, focusing in particular on that critical opening section. The work on the Perisher course has been supervised by Canadian John Balfour, who was the assistant designer for the Vancouver Games course. The resort has accumulated 15cm (six inches) of new snow since the start of August and forecasters are calling 5-10cm (2-4 inches) of new snowfalls this week. Plus, another front is expected to hit around the 16th August bring serious snowfalls of up to 20cm (eight inches). Mt Hotham has reported a, "crazy weather week ...we've seen it all, from sun to wind, to wet conditions and now... it's snowing!" said a recent resort statement. 12cm (five inches) of new snow has fallen across Hotham in the past week. The average natural snowdepth is currently 81cm (2.6 feet) and the snowdepth in snowmaking areas is 106cm (3.5 feet). 12 lifts have been in operation on most days.
In New Zealand most resorts now have deep bases and several have reported fresh snow (The Remarkables picture attached). At Ruapehu Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas report 180cm (six feet) and 210cm (seven feet) lying on upper slopes respectively. Heavy snowfall and limited visibility delayed the start of the second day of the seventh annual Burton New Zealand Open at Cardrona Alpine Resort today (12th August), but the riders and course crew overcame the challenging conditions with a full day of competition. It was no small task as over 70 men and 35 women from 16 countries were slated to take to Cardrona Alpine Resort’s newly sculpted slopestyle course, each vying for a highly coveted spot in Friday’s semifinal competition.