Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Need To Dream of a White Christmas, just go Skiing (Yes... or Boarding...)

Skiinfo reports that most of the world’s major ski regions are reporting relatively good snow conditions ready for the season’s peak Christmas and New Year holiday weeks. Low temperatures across the northern hemisphere have allowed for snowmaking to operate a maximum efficiency through the world’s now hundreds of thousands of snow guns, but this has hardly been needed at many resorts where the Alps, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Scotland and both coasts of north America reporting at least a foot (30cm) of new snow in the past week and in some cases as much as 1.2 metres (four feet). In most ski areas the snow is currently still falling.
Conditions in France are continuing to improve in the Alps with most resorts reporting snow over the past few days, and this is continuing right now. La Clusaz appears to be doing the best, posting yet another powder alarm for another 35cm (14 inches) of snow overnight this morning. It has received the most snow in France over the past week, with 117cm (nearly 4 feet) in the past week and now has the deepest reported base in France as a result, with 1.4m (nearly five feet). Many other major French resorts are not far behind however and conditions are currently great at most, with fresh powder on a solid base. Les Contamines Montjoie and Peisey Vallandry each have 130cm (4.3 feet) bases with La Plagne and La Rosière1850 only 5cm (2 inches) less. In common with the rest of Europe temperatures have been very low however, dropping to about -16°C in Le Grand Bornand on Sunday morning. All major French resorts are now fully or partially open.
Switzerland continues to top the list for powder alarms in Europe. Today Vercorin reports a remarkable 90cm (three feet) of new snow, and eight out of the top ten snowfall reports in Europe are in Switzerland. Andermatt-Gotthard claims the most snow in the country with 2.5m (over eight feet), St Moritz has 1.8m (over 6 feet), Laax 168cm (5.6 feet) and Engelberg 165cm (5.5 feet). After Vercorin with 1.6m (5.3 feet), Champoussin on the French border in the Portes du Soleil has had the most snow in the past week with a metre of fresh.
Italy continues to have the greatest snow depth in the world at the Presena (3.8m/12.7 feet) and Marmolada (3.2m/10.6 feet) glaciers above Passo Tonale and Arabba respectively. The country has also seen some of the heaviest snowfall in Europe through the past week. With the north-western regions of Piemonte and the Aosta Valley doing especially well and snow falling in Turin. Bardonecchia and Macugnaga both reported 50cm (20 inches) of new snow each yesterday, Cervinia and La Thuile 40cm (16 inches) each.
Austrian ski areas typically received another 20-30m (8-12 inches) of snow at the start of the week, Wilma Himmelfreundpointner of St Anton Tourism commented, "I had the pleasure to enjoy the perfectly prepared slopes and the great mountain view on Sunday and I can only say it’s a winter’s dream". St. Anton currently has 28 lifts opened and 68km of slopes prepared. After the powder alarm on Monday (20 cm) and 5cm of new snow so far today (Wednesday) the resort has 130cm (4.3 feet) of snow on upper slopes now and 30cm (a foot) in the valley. Across Austria the Mölltal glacier continues to have the most snow with 230cm (7.6 feet) , the Kaunertal glacier 191cm (6.3 feet) and the Hintertux glacier 170cm (6.6 feet). Großglockner/Heiligenblut has had the most snow in the country in the past week with 40cm (16 inches). A quarter of it falling today. Bad Kleinkirchheim had 30cm (a foot) yesterday.
It snowed all weekend in Germany. The Allgäu Alps reported the biggest snowfalls in the country, but there were many powder alarms in the central uplands, too. Temperatures reached a low of - 28C and immense snowfalls caused traffic chaos while hundreds of skiers and snowboarders entered the slopes in the Sauerland region and enjoyed up to 35cm (14 inches) of new snow that had fallen over the past week. Dozens of powder alarms have been issued by German resorts in recent days, mostly for 20-30cm (8-12 inches) in 24 hours. Ofterschwang reported 25 cm of new snow last night. The resort is open partially and will open completely on Christmas Eve tomorrow. Rainer Hartmann, manager of Ofterschwanger Bergbahnen was happy about the cold temperatures allowing snow production and also about the great snowfalls last night: "Now we can offer our guests a great ski resort for Christmas!", he said. The Zugspitzplatt has the most snow in the country with 170cm (5.6 feet), Oberstdorf – Nebelhorn has 110cm (3.6 feet).
Heavy snow and low temperatures across most of Eastern Europe has allowed about 75% of the ski areas to either fully open or at least open some slopes in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia to open at the weekend. In Bulgaria, Pamporovo and Borovets have joined Bansko in opening their slopes this weekend, a week after Bansko. Snowfalls of up to 430cm have been reported and Bansko has the greatest base depth of up to 70cm (2.3 feet). Romania's leading resort of Poiana Brasov has partially opened following fresh snow there, it is currently reporting temperatures in double digits below zero. Most of Slovenia's ski areas also opened at the weekend too, after the warm snap that affected much of mainland Europe finally ended. Krvavec, which has been voted the best resort in the country by a Croatian Ski Magazine for three years in a row, has a 55cm (22 inch) base. Most of Slovakia's leading ski areas have also opened at the weekend, the new Kosutka ski centre which opened last winter has 40cm (16 inches) of snow.
To the north some serious snow arrived last week in Scandinavia, particularly from Thursday through to Tuesday. In Sweden Bydalen got the most with 45cm (18 inches) of new snow, followed by Vemdalen with 39cm (16 inches). Hassela got 30cm (a foot) and Tandådalen 22cm (9 inches). Vemdalen and Ramundberget have the greatest snow depths in the country at the moment with 80cm (Nearly three feet) to enjoy off-piste. The forecast shows really low temperatures all over the country for the upcoming Christmas Holiday.
It’s a similar picture in Norway with cold crisp weather (25 below zero this morning in Hemsedal) and fresh snow. Voss was one of the main beneficiaries, issuing a powder alarm at the weekend.
Spain has also had snowy news and the very cold weather currently common across Europe. A succession of Atlantic fronts has brought a mixture of snow and rain in the last few days. Now ski resorts are looking to the Christmas holidays optimistically. On Monday it snowed again in Madrid and snow is expected again all over Spain's Ski resorts in the next few days. Baqueira currently has the most terrain open in the country with 77km. Formigal is a few kilometres behind with 71km and has some of the deepest snow at 90cm (three feet). Conditions have improved a lot in Masella (25-55 cm powder and 41km) and has opened today a new ski area served by a new chairlift called La Pia Express (picture attached). Sierra Nevada is reporting 20-100 cm of powder snow but it is currently closed due to the strong wind.
Andorra has had a little new snow too but snow depths could still do with a perk up – they’re currently in the 30-60cm (1-2 foot) range.
Western Canada is still receiving plenty of snow after the record falls of November. Red Mountain in British Columbia says it has received 73 cm (29 inches) of new snow since last week and Fernie 35cm (14 inches) in the past 48 hours. Whistler continues to build its incredible base ahead of the Olympics, with healthy falls through the past seven days meaning another 1.2m (4 feet) has fallen. Whitler’s seasaon-to-date snowfall is noew already nearing 7 metres (21 feet) and its mid-mountain base 2.5m (8.3 feet). Currently it recommends The saddle Gs course as one of the best on the mountain. Eastern Canada is also looking good. Mont-Sainte-Anne has the largest open terrain in the Province of Quebec with 30 slopes open and nearby Stoneham Mountain Resort is following close by with 9 slopes. In total, almost 50km of slopes are available to skiers and riders, in addition to the 109km of XC trails open at the Mont-Sainte-Anne Cross-country Skiing Center!. The low temperatures of last week allowed Mont-Sainte-Anne to pursue its snowmaking efforts with 100% of its system in operation. Snow guns have now been moved to the mountain’s expert terrain to open a maximum number of runs for the holidays. So far the resorts have received 143 cm of snow.
It’s a similar picture in the US where, like in much of Europe, cold temperatures and heavy sow have brought chaos to metroplitan areas as well as plenty of snow to the si slopes of New england in great time for christmas and the New Year. Whoiteface mountain reports it has "a ton" of snow, most other resorts in the region are claiming several feet of new cover (30-60cm). At Squaw Valley USA in California it just won’t stop snowing. Three weeks into December and the resort has already received 100 inches (2.5m) of snow. Days-on-end of snow accumulation have allowed resort operators to get the mountain 100% open for the Holidays.
Revelers can catch Santa and his Elf in the Village or out on the slopes, enjoying the phenomenal conditions.