Skiinfo reports that Colorado’s Loveland ski area is claiming bragging rights as the first ski resort to open in North America for the 2009-1 season, yesterday, Wednesday, October 7th. This is the earliest opening day at Loveland Ski Area in 40 years. Loveland started making snow on September 21, 2009. "We took advantage of the cold temperatures and got an early start making snow this year. Those extra days paid off and we are opening a week earlier than last season", said Eric Johnstone, Snowmaking and Trail Maintenance Manager. "Now we can move some equipment to other trails and try to open more terrain as quickly as possible (...) We are proud of our snowmaking crew and extremely excited to offer the first skiing and snowboarding in Colorado and North America", said Rob Goodell, Director of Business Operations. "Skiers and riders have been waiting all summer for this day and we are anxious to fire up the lifts. We are opening a week earlier than last year but the coverage is great! We will open with an 18" base and tree to tree coverage on our opening day run". For the first turns of the season, skiers and snowboarders will have access to a top to bottom run consisting of 1,000 vertical feet via Chair 1. The trails Catwalk, Mambo and Homerun make up this opening day run which is over a mile in length.
Elsewhere other resorts across North America and Europe have reported fresh snow falling, building anticipation for the coming winter. Loveland’s neighbour Copper Mountain has begun snowmaking and the preliminary stages of its new superpipe are being laid in place ahead of their scheduled November 6th opening. Another Colorado resort, Silverton Mountain (picture attached), sent pictures of the great snow cover there already, with staff skiing the first runs of the season. North of the border new snow has been reported at Banff and Whistler.
In Europe there is little change from last week in terms of glacier ski areas open, although reports of snow falling across mountains in the north of the continent, including Scotland, has put a smile on many skiers and boarders faces.
Scandinavia is seeing the most fresh snow at the moment with Kvitfjell in Norway reporting 21cm (8 inches) of new snow in the past week, 7cm (three inches) of that in the past 24 hours, but it is not yet open.
However the glaciers still have rather a thin covering of fresh snow in most cases following the long warm summer, with only the Swiss glaciers reporting depths above 60cm (two feet), in most other cases coverage is 15-30cm (6-12 inches).
In France the only open ski area at present is the Grand Motte glacier at Tignes.
In Italy Cervinia is due to join already-open-since-summer Val Senales and Passo Stelvio when it re-opens for weekends through October on Saturday, before returning to fulltime operations on November 1st.
In Switzerland Saas Fee, which is currently offering high-value ski test packages on its glacier, and Zermatt are open, soon to be joined by Glacier 3000 above Gstaad/Les Diablerets, glacier skiing near St Moritz and Engelberg’s Titlis glacier.
Austria continues to offer the most open glacier ski areas with Stubai, Tux, Molltal, Kaprun and Pitztal all open for snow sports.
The 2009 season continues to wind down in the southern hemisphere where the majority of resorts are now closed. In South America it’s the last week of winter for the few ski areas still operational. Argentina’s Cerro Cathedral while Chile’s Portillo and Valle Nevado are winding up their seasons this week, although both have more than four foot (1.2m) of snow lying on upper slopes.
The ski season has also drawn to a close this week for the final few ski areas that were open up to Monday in Australia.
In New Zealand Mt Ruapehu remains open however, with Turoa reporting a huge snow base that is up on last week at 2.6m (nearly 9 feet), neighbouring Whakapapa is not far behind with 1.8m (six feet). At Mt Hutt over 100 competitors were not deterred by the wild weather and wacky new course features on Sunday when one of the most exciting Peak to Pub races took place. Competitors were hit by four different seasons over the day including blizzard like conditions as they skied, biked, ran and "swam" their way from Mt. Hutt to Methven’s iconic Blue Pub. New features to this year’s event included the water crossing thought up by NZ’s legendary multi sport athlete Steve Gurney where competitors had to decide if it was worth plunging into frigid water to gain the a minute or two’s advantage. "The weather definitely added to the excitement and the water crossing was incredible to watch - the water was freezing!", said Event Organizer Paul Marks. "It added such a fun element to the event this year and will be seen again in the future". To the event organizers’ and spectators’ delight, 40% of the field decided to hit the water instead of taking the "dodgy" purpose-built log bridge further up stream. The country’s Lake Wanaka region brought a successful winter season to a close at the weekend with all four resorts, Treble Cone, Snow Park NZ, Cardrona Alpine Resort and Snow Farm, reporting excellent visitor numbers, great snow conditions throughout and many successful world-class events. For Cardrona Alpine Resort 2009 was a record breaker for both visitor numbers and accumulated snowfall. Winter started early with a huge snowfall in May. With ideal cool conditions and further snow Cardrona recorded its deepest (317cm) accumulated snowfall in the last decade, in August. Skiers and snowboarders from across both New Zealand and Australia flocked to the slopes in record numbers. Elite athletes used Cardrona’s 22ft Olympic halfpipe, the only one in Australasia, to train and compete in the lead up to the Olympics 2010, with renowned snowboarder Shaun White landing the first back to back double cork 1080 in history during the Burton New Zealand Open.