Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fresh Snow In North America As Snowmaking Begins in Colorado

Skiinfo reports that the number of countries open for snow sports will grow by two this weekend when Tignes in France and Timberline in the US are due to re-open for winter 2009-10 just as autumn begins. There’s been fresh snow on both sides of the Atlantic this week to further build anticipation amongst the millions of skiers and boarders eagerly awaiting the start of winter 2009-10
In North America cold temperatures and natural snowfall have arrived earlier than expected in Colorado, USA allowing Loveland Ski Area, one of the world’s highest altitude resorts, to officially kick-off snowmaking for the 2009-2010 ski season. "Our Trail Maintenance department has been busy preparing the hill, and have started beautifully with all the necessary conditions to start blowing snow. The weather forecast for the next few days looks very favorable for snowmaking", said Eric Johnstone, Loveland’s Snowmaking and Trail Maintenance Manager. Loveland Ski Area has started making snow on the Catwalk, Mambo, and Homerun for Opening Day 2009. These trails form a top-to-bottom run of 1,000 vertical feet (330m). "Everyone at Loveland is just very excited to start the new ski season. The temperatures look good right now, the equipment is in place, and the crew is fired-up to make snow. We got together this morning and decided that today was the day", said Bob Magrino, Director of Mountain Operations. Loveland usually opens in the first half of October, but other resorts in the state which won’t open until closer to Thanksgiving in late November have also reported fresh snow for the start of autumn.
At Steamboat Ski Area the first snow of the season was reported just below the top of Christie Peak at about 8,000 feet with between a trace to half an inch as you moved up from the top of the gondola up to the summit of Mt. Werner. The Steamboat Ski Area opens for the 2009/10 season in two months on November 25, 2009.
North America’s only ‘near-year-round’ snowfield is scheduled to re-open at Timberline, Oregon this weekend after a few week’s annual maintenance closure, although some sources say that this may not happen as temperatures have been too warm. The area’s website currently reports lifts will re-open on Friday (September 25) however.
Excitement is also mounting in the Alps as half a dozen glacier ski areas prepare to open for the winter 2008-9 in the first weeks of October in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. Cervinia, Engelberg and Tignes are all on the list of areas expected to join the resorts that have already opened, such as Pitztal in Austria, or have been open all summer like Sass Free and Zermatt in Switzerland, Passo Stelvio and Val Senales in Italy and Hintertux in Austria.
Austria once again has the greatest choice of snow slopes, now back up to five for the first time since the spring with the Stubai glacier opening a month earlier than originally planned, Solden’s glacier opening two weeks later than planned and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, which had closed due to lack of snow on the glacier in August, reopening. They join Tux and the recently re-opened Pitztal glaciers. The Dachstein glacier is currently reported to be closed although it notes therte’s 20cm (8 inches) of snow on the pistes. Solden has only 3.1km (2miles) of piste open and three glacier lifts, with quite a thin covering of snow on the glacier pistes, but fresh snow has fallen giving a few centimetres of powder on top, so no one lucky enough to be there is complaining. The lifts are open from 9am to 1pm and reached by a bus service from the village.
Elsewhere in Europe Tignes in France will re-open this Saturday, September 26th for its long season through to next May, 2010.
In Switzerland Saas Fee and Zermatt are both still open with around 90cm (three feet) of snow each.
In Italy the choice is between Passo Stelvio and Val Senales, due to be joined shortly by Cervinia, opening weekends, through most of October before full opening in November.
The 2009 ski season in the southern hemisphere is beginning to wind down, in Australia at least, where most of the country’s still-open major resorts will run their lifts for snow operations for the last time this season on Sunday, September 27th. At Mt Hotham the Road Runner, Village, Summit Quad, Summit Trainer and the Big D lifts are all still turning and tickets will be half price for the final few days of the season this weekend.
In New Zealand most ski areas are open for some weeks yet and most that are still open are reporting healthy base depths. Whakapapa for example has just over 1.5m (five feet) lying, at neighbouring Turoa it’s still nearly 2.4m (eight feet) meaning a snowy October looks likely.
Construction has started and containers are in place to make way for the Speight’s Summit Methven Big Air this Saturday, with snow due to arrive from Mt Hutt today (Thursday 24 Sept). Fresh powder falling overnight at Mt Hutt has been a welcome gift for skiers and riders but has meant plans for bringing snow to Methven have changed and with more snow expected tomorrow, the pace will be stepped up to bring snow in today. Karyn Heald, Event Organiser told InTheSnow that excitement is building in town as construction gets underway. "The containers are in place, scaffolding is up, the dirt is in for the FMX, and all hands are on deck", she said. "Everything is looking good and Friday will be an exciting day when the snow is loaded onto the ramp and shaping begins with snow from Mt Hutt". The 17-metre high Big Air kicker will showcase a field of top athletes alongside an FMX spectacular, live music and a whole host of entertainment to make this one of the most epic days of the season.
It’s a more mixed picture for snow depths in South America with accumulations ranging from ‘not much’ to ‘still quite adequate’ and typical Spring snow conditions the norm with better skiing on upper slopes virtually everywhere. Las Leñas in Argentina reports some of the deepesat snow on the continent ranging from 90cm, (three feet) on lower slopes to 3.2m (nearly 11 feet) lying on summit slopes.
In Chile, Portillo hasn’t added much to the eight metre (26 feet) tally-to-date for seasonal snowfall it passed some weeks ago now, reporting only a centimetre (half inch) of new snow in the past week. However it still has a healthy base from top (210cm/7 feet) to bottom (137cm/4.5 feet) of the mountain.