Skiinfo has been firing off powder alarms at an unprecedented rate for this early in the season. The company, which receives snowfall updates loaded directly in by ski resorts all over the world, has emailed more than 60 powder alarms in recent days to registered subscribers who take advantage of the free service. An alarm is automatically triggered each time a resort reports snowfall of more than 20cm in 24 hours, but recent alarms have been set off for falls five times that size.
It’s a dream start to the 2009-10 ski season for virtually every major ski region in the northern hemisphere, and although ski industry businesses are wary of tempting fate by even daring to hope of last year’s great snowfalls, especially in Europe, it’s hard not to be happy by all the new snow, even though it is of course too early to e sure we are set up for winter 09-10.
One of the big beneficiaries of the past week has been Italy where resorts already open like Cortina have reported another big snowfall taking their season to date fall already past 1.5m, and it’s not even mid-November. Other parts of the country including Monterosa in the west are also doing well.
Austria still has the widest choice of ski areas open for a single country in the Alps, with the resort’s glacier ski areas plus already open Kitzbuhel and Schladming taking the numbers in to double figures. They’re due to be joined this weekend by Obergurgl, the continent’s highest traditional village and always an early opener. Obertauern, venue for the ski scenes in the Beatles Movie Help 45 years ago, is also due to open shortly.
Near neighbour Germany has one ski area open still, on the Zugspitz glacier near Garmisch, with a 1.2m (four foot) base.
There’s been healthy snowfalls on Switzerland’s ski slopes too although so far it’s still the glacier ski areas of Zermatt, Saas Fee and Les Diablerets (Glacier 3000) that are reported open.
In France there’s been big snowfalls in the Alps and the Pyrenees. With only Tignes open still it’s difficult to find any official figures on snowfall, however the Pyrenees seem to be doing especially well in the past 72 hours with Cauterets, which received huge snowfalls last winter, reporting 1.3m (over four feet) of new snow. It will open on November 28th. In the Alps there are many unofficial guesstimates of several feet (50-100cm) of new snow at resorts like Chamonix and Meribel where skiers and boarders have been hiking up to ski down the slopes. However other than Tignes – where conditions are reported to be much improved with the new snow and skiing down to Val Claret – unless anyone breaks ranks, it looks like we still have to wait another 10 days for the first to open, Val Thorens on November 21st. Across France’s south Western border, ski resorts in Spain are expected to begin opening soon, and earlier than expected, after heavy snowfall was reported by a number of the country’s top resorts in the Pyrenees mountains.
Temperatures have dropped, snow has been falling for the past few days and Spain’s largest winter resort, Formigal, now has depths of nearly a metre (3.3 feet) at 1,900m and 35cm (14 inches) at village level (1,500m). Another leading resort, Baqueira Beret, has reported similar cover following two days of heavy snowfall, with a metre (3.3 feet) at the top of the ski area at 2500m, and 45cm (18 inches) in resort. Commercial manager for Formigal, Jose Luis del Valle, said: "This is great news, we should be able to open very soon. And with our great offers like free ski hire and free lift passes for kids, a holiday to Formigal won’t break the bank".
The eyes of skiing’s World Cup competition will be on Scandinavia this weekend however as the circus rolls in to Finnish resort Levi, one of several already open in the country, along with Ruka amongst others.
In Sweden the resorts of Vemdalen and Klövsjö/Storhogna received between 20-30cm (8-12 inches0 of fresh snow. And the weather report looks promising for the rest of the week, with temperatures below zero. Vemdalen plans to open on Saturday. Funäsdalen and Tänndalen are already open and received about 5cm (2 inches) of new snow. This week both the Swedish and the US Alpine Ski teams are training on the slopes in Tärnaby for the World Cup in Levi. "We've got everything the teams need, good snow conditions for training and convenient slopeside accommodation", Said resort manager Thomas Ringbrant.
Ski areas open in Norway are also in to double figures with Hemsedal among those reporting over a foot of new powder to delight early skiers and boarders.
Resorts are now opening daily across North America and it’s at this point that it becomes impossible to keep track, at least two or three are now open in each ski state/province in the west of the continent where many areas have had two feet or more of new snow in the past week. The majority of US ski areas will want to be open for the thanksgiving holiday in a fortnight’s time. In Colorado the number of areas open looks set to reach double figures by the weekend, with resorts like Keystone and Copper mountain having joined early-openers last month including Arapahoe Basin and Loveland. Other Western US resorts already open or opening imminently include crystal Mountain and Mt Baker in Washington state
In the east of the US, Killington and Bretton Woods in Vermont and New Hampshire respectively opened at the weekend, joining Sunday River in Maine. Several more plan to open in the next few days including Belleayre in New York State.
In Canada more resorts have been opening in Alberta and British Columbia. Lake Louise opened last Friday, joining fellow Banff area Mt Norquay, and they’re due to be joined by Marmot Basin and sunshine in the next few days. The Banff area has reported 63cm of new snow in the past few days and Marmot Basin will debut its new quad chairlift. Another Albertan resort, Nakiska, the closest to Calgary, is already open for race te4ams and opens to the general public this weekend – it too has a new quad chairlift. Blessed with this great early season snowfall and one of the world's most sophisticated snowmaking systems, Lake Louise (picture attached) is preparing to welcome the World Cup races later this month. The Men’s races will take place on November 28 to 29, and the Women’s races on December 4 to 6. Sunshine Village will open on November 11, after receiving 130cm of snowfall to date. Approximately 50 per cent of the resort’s 107 runs will be accessible, with Standish, Wawa and Strawberry lifts set to open.
The newly renovated Sunshine Mountain Lodge will open 30 new eco-luxurious rooms in early December. The multimillion dollar wing replacement has not only added luxury to the Lodge, but also lowered the resort’s carbon footprint. Over in British Columbia Sun Peaks also plans to open in the next few days a week earlier than planned. Thanks to all the snow.
Continuing West, in Asia the ski season looks to be days away in Japan. "On October 30th we saw snow falling for the first time and after a few cold dry days, we got our first “dump” of snow at the resort village level (approx 200m above sea level)", said Andrew Clarke of Niseko alpine developments, based in one of the country’s largest resorts, Niseko. "More is forecast to come soon and the resort is due to open on approx Nov 20th. Last summer the last lifts stopped running on May 6th after a long bank holiday weekend, but only because of visitation was too low to sustain the lifts running costs, not because of any lack of snow which lasted well into June on many of the slopes".
In New Zealand the last ski area known to be open in the southern hemisphere closed at the weekend, bringing the long 2009 ski season to an end. Turoa on Mt Ruapehu still had more than two metres of snow lying on closing day. "Both Turoa and Whakapapa have done us well this year with plenty of fine weather weekends and fresh spring snowfalls which helped extend the season at Turoa for the second year in a row. We'd like to thank everyone who visited us for their support throughout the 2009 winter season, particularly during Snovember. It's great to have the opportunity to offer another three weeks worth of skiing and riding but we couldn't do it without our wonderful customers", said a ski area statement.