Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Heavy Snow of 09-10 Season Dumps On Austrian Glaciers

Skiinfo fired off several powder alarms last days, as up to a metre (40 inches) of fresh snow was reported falling on the half dozen glacier ski areas already open for winter 2009-10 in Austria. The snow fell right down to village level in many areas with resorts like Obergurgl reporting 10cm (4 inches) on village streets (picture attached). Temperatures are currently in double-figures below zero at most of Europe’s glacier areas and more snow is expected at the weekend. The big falls come in the same week of the year as those in 2008 when the huge dumps that set up winter 08-09 as one of the best in recent years began in the second week of October.
Again it’s Tux in Austria that is the first to report big snowfalls too, with a metre (40 inches) falling since the start of the week. In Kaprun, the fresh snow has arrived in perfect time for a series of freestyle workshops that the Kitzsteinhorn glacier is planning to run from this Saturday onwards. It reports up to 76cm (30 inches) of new snow taking base depths on the glacier up to 1.5m (five feet).
Also in Austria, which continues to have the most choice of seven glacier ski areas open, the Stubai glacier has reported 135cm (14 inches) of new snow taking snow depths to a metre and the Molltal glacier was another to generate a Skiinfo powder alarm with a 40cm (16 inch fall). There’s also new snow at Pitztal, on the Dachstein and at Solden where the World cup kicks off next weekend.
Snow has also been falling on the open glacier ski areas of France, Italy and Switzerland. Tignes received a much needed 5cm (two inch) top up on its Grand Motte glacier and the snow was also good news for Cervinia in Italy which now joins Val Senales and Passo Stelvio as a third skiing choice in the country, although only opening at weekends until November when it resumes full time operations.
In Switzerland Saas Fee and Zermatt remain the two choices with 90 – 150cm (3-5 feet) bases. Plans for Engelberg and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz appear to be on hold until more snow falls. Glacier 3000 at Diablerets has opened today for cross country skiing following fresh snow there.
In Scandinavia Ruka in Finland has opened for winter 09-10 and announced that it intends to stay open until at least June 10th, 2010. Two runs with two lifts are currently fully open with another five runs with snowmaking nearing completion of cover. "Only the European glaciers beat Ruka in the race of opening for winter season during autumn. Ruka has never been forced to shut down prematurely due to lack of snow, so we can proudly call ourselves the most certain choice for skiing in Europe!", said a resort statement. "The secret to this accomplishment lies in the climate, as well as in the high-quality snowmaking machinery - not to forget the snow-how! The 70 snowguns in Ruka produce 1,250 square metres of snow in an hour at full capacity. In good conditions this means the first slope, Saarua number 12, can be opened after a bit over 24 hours of snowmaking beginning".
Across The Atlantic in the US Arapahoe Basin has joined its neighbour Loveland in Colorado is opening limited terrain. Donner Summit in California has also opened. On the east Cost Killington in Vermont is reported to have begun snowmaking.
North of the border Mount Washington in British Columbia (Canada) was among those reporting fresh snow, with 5cm (to inches) overnight tonight. The first Canadian resort to open is expected to be Mount Norquay at Banff at the end of the month.
The 2009 ski season is virtually over in the southern hemisphere. All of Argentina and Australia’s ski centres are now closed while Valle Nevado in Chile, which currently has a near 1.5m (five foot) base, expects to be the last to close there, this weekend.
The main exception is Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand which has announced it is further extending its season to November 8th, officially making theirs the longest season in the Southern Hemisphere. Turoa will remain open until 8 November, while neighbouring Whakapapa will close as scheduled on 26 October. The mountain has received more fresh snow in the past week.
Mike Smith, Mt Ruapehu marketing manager says the cooler October weather is good news for skiers and boarders. "This is going to be one of the best Octobers we’ve ever had at Mt Ruapehu after an unseasonably warm August and September – it’s honestly like winter all over again. The blizzard last week that affected the Central Plateau roads left behind a huge amount of snow, and our ski fields are currently enjoying a base of 260cm at Turoa and 160cm at Whakapapa – and these snow bases will only get better", said Mr Smith.