Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Avalanche Alert in British Columbia As Whistler Base Heads For Two Metres

Skiinfo reports heavy snow in Western Canada has led to November avalanche warnings at Whistler, where the snow depth is rapidly heading towards two metres only a few days after the resort’s early opening.
However the news isn’t all good, the first delayed-openings have been announced. With little snow in Eastern Europe, Bansko, which had planned to open last weekend, has delayed opening; while Mont St Anne in Quebec, Canada, which had planned to open this weekend has also decided to delay with weather too warm for much snow making. Alta in Utah may open this weekend as planned, but that relies on heavy snowfall on Friday in a projected storm. Elsewhere, apart from western North America and Scandinavia where it’s still dumping, the big snowfalls of early in November have eased and there’s not been much new snow in the Alps this week. However there has been some snowfall in Switzerland (6cm in Gstaad, 4 cm in Davos) and Austria (4cm in Sölden) this morning.
In France Val Thorens has joined Tignes and become the second resort in the country to open.
In Austria there’s plenty of snow on the glaciers already. One of the largest areas is Hintertux which has a 170cm (nearly 6 foot) base and 16 of 22 lifts are open. The Mölltal glacier also has a 170cm base and the Kaunertal 135cm (4.5 feet). The Stubai and Dachstein glaciers have just over a metre (3.3 feet) each. Sölden has snow 77cm deep with 16 of its 34 lifts open. Kitzbuhel, Schladming and Obergurgl are already open and Obertauern will open on November 19th, it has 30cm (a foot) of snow in the valley and 50cm (20 inches) at the top of the slopes.
In Switzerland Zermatt currently claims the greatest snow depth of any ski resort in the world with a 4 metre (13.3 foot) base. Davos and Laax opened limited terrain at the weekend and Saas Fee’s glacier is still open, while Verbier continues to open at weekends through November.
In Germany the Zugspitze (Garmisch) has a 105cm (3.5 foot) base and 6 lifts open. Other ski resorts in the Allgäu (such as Oberstdorf and Fellhorn) have 20cm (8 inches) of snow.
The Presena glacier in Italy is reporting snow falls have passed the three metre mark following recent snowfalls. The glacier has received 3.2m (nearly 11 feet) of snow and currently has two runs open and has snow depths of up to 1.2m (four feet). Several of Italy’s other major ski resorts are now open at weekends thanks to the early-season snow in October and early November . these include Cervinia (that has three lifts open), Bormio (that first opened slopes over 2,560m some weeks ago) and Cortina (with 5km of slopes open). Livigno made a surprise opened last Friday with one run open and is offering free skiing this week – no lift pass required. In the Piedmont region, the province’s minister for tourism told the La Stampa newspaper, "Our mountains are already covered with snow and all ski resorts are awaiting the first tourists of winter with many new features. In Piedmont all ski resorts have enhanced their safety rules to the new national standards and the region is increasing its international appeal, thanks to the development of air links with important partners such as Alitalia and Ryanair". Last year Piedmont had more than 1.5 million skier visits and this year the area will launch a new promotional campaign with tailor-made packages for families, young people and tourists with disabilities or special needs.
In Scandinavia, this weekend Norways biggest ski area with a shared lift ticket has all their ski resorts open -the Lillehammer Ski Region. "Each of our ski areas has it’s own unique range of skiing opportunities to offer, and our co-operation with each other guarantees you the opportunity to experience every one of them. Buy your ski lift pass in any of the five centres and this will give you access to 92 slopes, a total of 116 kilometres in all, 44 lifts and 6 cross country courses", says Eskil Solberg in Kvitfjell ski resort. More than 25 ski areas are due to be open in Norway this weekend.
Two areas of Europe haven’t had much snow so far are the Eastern ski resorts of Bulgaria where Bansko, had hoped to open last weekend but has had to postpone its opening. There’s also been no repeat of last year’s November opening in Scotland as despite low temperatures, snowfall has been limited.
In North America dozens of resorts opened last weekend and many more plan to open this weekend or in the days following, ahead of the big Thanksgiving holiday weekend of the 26th-29th November. British Columbia (Canada), and especially Whistler (picture attached), has had big snowfalls in the past week meaning resorts there have had great opening weekends. Alongside Whitler, BC resorts Big White, Sun Peaks and Cypress Mountain all opened. Sun Peaks opened with top-to-bottom skiing on Saturday, thanks to excellent summer grooming and brush removal, early snow fall and snow making, the opening day was a week earlier than originally scheduled. The Sunburst Chairlift from the village started turning at 14 minutes to 9am on Saturday as the resort celebrated the number 14 and one of the earliest openings ever at Sun Peaks. The Austrian National Ski Team arrived in Sun Peaks on November 17 to begin training, so visitors can watch for these elite athletes on the slopes of the Nancy Greene International Race Centre this week. However the heavy snowfalls aren’t all good news, by Monday (November 16), Whistler already had to announce that their avalanche warning level was at its highest warning level because of the heavy snow build up and it now reports it snow base is approaching two metres.
Dozens of ski area have opened across the US, although one resort at least, Salta in Utah, may delay its planned opening this weekend is a promised Friday storm does not deliver enough snow. Although already sitting on a 60cm (25 inch) base at mid-mountain, the resort has limited snowmaking And is concerned cover isn’t adequate for a sustained opening.
Meanwhile over in Asia, heavy snow in China at the start of this month has led to resorts around capital Beijing and in the country’s main ski region in the North East of the country opening about a month ahead of their expected opening dates in December. The country’s best known resort of Yabuli opened beginner terrain last week and other ski areas in the region plan to open in the next few days. Wanlong resort is also open and in contrast has opened terrain at the top of the mountain. Nanshan Ski Resort near Beijing are reported to have extended and widened their mogul field and added a jump to the end of one of the advanced trails on the back of the mountain. The centre has also added an ice climbing wall.
Things are happening in Japan too. Niseko United resorts opening days are staggered over late November to early December. Grand Hirafu and Annupuri Ski Resort are usually the first resorts to open and this year it is planned for this Saturday, 21 November. Niseko Village follows closely behind on 28 November. Hanazono is the last of the resorts to open and they will open from 5 December.