Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great Condition In Europe As More US Resorts Open Early

Skiinfo has been reporting on more fresh snow in the Alps and received reports of snow falling across the northern hemisphere, including in Alaska, Canada, the Indian Himalayas and the Japanese Alps. More new snow is expected later this week and conditions on the glaciers are reported to be excellent. Snow is still falling too in the southern hemisphere, with fresh accumulations in Australia although all ski areas in the country are now closed from winter 2009. After last week’s heavy snowfalls on Austria’s glaciers, conditions are great at all of the half-dozen open glacier ski areas (Hintertux, Molltal, Pitztal, Solden, Stubai, Tux) with most reporting snow depths of up to 1.5m (5 feet), much of it fresh snow. The Planai ski area at Schladming also opened at the weekend and Seefeld welcomed the Austrian national biathlon team arrived for training on its cross country trails. Solden stages the Alpine World Cup opening this weekend (23-25 October) so the new snow is great news there. It has 55cm (nearly two feet) of snow on the glaciers and six lifts open.
In Switzerland the open areas of Saas Fee and Zermatt received more fresh snow and Engelberg has announced it will open this weekend, with two red runs served by a T Bar and the six-seater Ice Flyer chairlift.
Italy’s Cervinia continues to open at weekends joining Val Senales and Passo Stelvio.
In France, Tignes remains the only glacier resort open and it received a dusting of fresh snow.
Scandinavia has had a great start to the 2009-10b ski season with resorts in Norway and Sweden joining Ruka in Finland which opened last week. At least five areas have opened in the region, including one of the leading Swedish resorts, Funasdalen.
In North America at least five ski areas are now reported to be open. Two of the continent’s biggest resorts, Mammoth in California on the west coast and Sunday River in Maine on the east coast both opened at the end of last week, with free skiing on opening day for all comers. However Mammoth has since had to close until temperatures drop again and it can make more snow. They were joined by the small Montana ski area of Great Divide which reported it’s earliest ever opening. The three resorts join three already open, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado and Donner Summit in California. Cataloochee in North Carolina had hoped to make its earliest ever opening on Monday after snowmaking began on Sunday, but temperatures rose unfortunately and it was unable to open as planned. Squaw Valley California, which celebrates 60 years in operation this winter, along with 50 years since it staged the Winter Olympics. "These early storms are ideal for the coming season", commented Savannah Cowley, Squaw Valley's spokesperson. "This high moisture content, early season snow is absorbed into the ground which is superb for our base layer. In contrast to rain, wet snow stays on the ground long enough to moisturize the ground which allows the new snow to better adhere".
North of the border Canada’s first ski area to open looks likely to be Mount Norquay, Banff’s local ski hill, which plans to open weekends from 31st October and already has a snow covering. The nearby resorts of Nakiska, Sunshine and Lake Louise all plan to open within the first few days of November.
In Asia, Japan’s Mt Yotei near the leading resort of Niseko has seen its first snowfalls of the autumn and temperatures have dropped drastically.
In the southern hemisphere all but two ski areas are now believed to be closed, although there’s over a metre of snow still lying on the slopes in many major resorts in South America.
The resorts still endeavouring to open (although closed several days recently by bad weather) are Turoa (2.4m/8 feet) and neighbouring Whakapapa (1.6m/5.3 feet) in New Zealand. However many of the world’s best snowboarders and skiers are in New Zealand taking advantage of Cardrona Alpine Resort’s 22ft halfpipe (picture attached), one of very few in the world currently open, for a private Pre-Olympic Pipe Camp in the lead up to Vancouver 2010. With the Winter Olympics just around the corner the camp has attracted Olympic medalist Shaun White, X-Games medalist Torah Bright (AUS) as well as top performing snowboarders Crispin Lipscomb (CAN), Ben Mates (AUS), national teams and representatives from New Zealand, Japan, Poland, Canada and Spain, all looking for valuable training time. In the closing weeks of the season Cardrona management was approached by national teams from all over the world looking for a training facility during October. Cardrona was happy to oblige and retained the services of John Melville, Cardrona's Parks & Pipes manager. The pipe camp commenced on the 5th October and will continue through to the 24th October. Olympic Gold medalist Shaun White (USA) flew back to New Zealand specifically for the first week of the private Pre-Olympic Pipe Camp and was grateful for the training opportunity. "I had a great time, it's awesome to be able to rely on a mountain to have great terrain during the summer time when there's no snow in the U.S", he said.
Australia’s ski areas closed several weeks ago but recent heavy snow led to Charlotte Pass re-opening its Basin Poma at the weekend for employees to enjoy the fresh powder.